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Thread: Better Late Than Never

  1. #126
    Join Date
    What's a Home Game?

    Sorry it's been so long. Hopefully I'll be providing regular updates again from now on.

    Our first fixture of October 2018 saw us host Gazelec Ajaccio. An early Cordoba strike and a Benteke penalty midway through the second half did the job in a comfortable 2-0 victory. This was just the warm up to a much more taxing week ahead. In midweek, we would fly to Denmark for the first match of our UEFA Cup tie against Aalborg (will cover that later) and then it was the big one in the league.

    Although we had dropped only two points in the league so far, PSG's Ligue 1 stats made for grim reading for any opposition. They had won their opening nine matches this season, their last 25 home games and had lost just once in 87! All without Neymar and Mbappe. Despite this, I felt that if anyone was going to end their dominance, that it would be us. After all, we had taken a point off them last season and only gone down to a single goal in Paris, and were better equipped to deal with them this time.

    We were rewarded for a bright start when Christian Atsu controlled Ait Bennasser's header to fire us ahead. The home crowd was stunned and it took the team a while to respond. They improved as the half progressed, with Kelava saving from Mandzukic but other than that, we were fairly comfortable. We held on to our lead until the break. Unfortunately, even when they're having an off day, they're still dangerous. Cavani proved that with two goals in the opening 20 minutes of the half and it looked as if our hard work would be for nothing. However, we reasserted ourselves and Cordoba came close with a header. The Colombian redeemed himself, though, by setting up substitute Saido Berahino, who fired in an equaliser ten minutes from time. Both sides could have stolen it but I was by far the happier manager with the 2-2 scoreline. It showed that we could compete with the best and if PSG were to have a bad run, we would be there to pounce.

    Successive home matches against Bordeaux and Nice followed and both times we started slowly but found an extra gear to win. Kerjean's second half strike won us the match against Bordeaux and he also scored both against Nice, either side of their equaliser. And then the league programme got really bizarre. Thanks mainly to numerous postponements because of fixture clashes (the French FA need to schedule the season better as this happened last season too!), our next six league assignments were all away from home. Yes, SIX!!!

    In the first of those, a second half Cordoba header was enough to beat Nantes but the final score should have been more emphatic. We remembered our shooting boots in the next game as Bastia were put to the sword 3-0. We had to come from behind against Saint-Etienne but we clearly deserved it in the end and it was some measure of revenge for our heartbreaking cup final defeat last season.

    I thought it was all going too well and sadly I was soon to be proved right. Even more frustratingly, our first reverse came against Lyon, who were one of our main rivals for Champions League qualification. Despite having a one-man advantage from the 24th minute onwards, we failed to break down the ten men and a Lacazette goal just before half time stole the points for the hosts. It had still been an excellent start to the season, so I went easy with my criticism of the players.

    This approached worked well as we responded with an excellent 4-1 victory at surprise strugglers Lille. The last of our sextet of league games on the road saw us take on another struggling side in Lorient. It was evident why they were struggling as they failed to register a clear chance all match. It took a brilliant Benteke free kick on the stroke of half time to break through but after that, there was only ever going to be one winner. Kerjean and Spajic made it a rout after the break. We had just one more match before Christmas and finally, it was a home game, 46 days after Nice came to town. Caen were our visitors. If they thought we might take our time to reacclimatise to playing at home, they were in for one hell of a shock as we took them apart 5-1, without either of our strikers scoring! In fact, Benteke and Cordoba are not finding the net as often as they should be and this is perhaps my only concern right now. Some shooting practise is needed for them, I feel, as they're both getting chances, just not taking them. Still, the rest of the team are chipping in, especially Kerjean and it's always encouraging for the gaffer when the goals are spread throughout the team. This time last season, we were almost entirely reliant on Benteke banging them in.

    In any other league, our form would make us red hot favourites for the title but PSG are still being complete bastards. They lead the way by seven points but our two games in hand gives us hope. We still have to play them at home in March. The performance so far has exceeded my expectations but top three and a Champions League place remains the primary target. We are well on course for at least that but Marseille and Lyon are strong sides, so I'm taking nothing for granted. The board are probably still predicting a relegation battle! Next up, Marseille at home.

    UEFA Cup
    The first leg against Aalborg was a thriller. It was important for us to find an away goal and Arnaud Lusamba provided it on 28 minutes with a fierce strike. The hosts were no pushovers, though and hit back with two goals either side of half time. We knew we were going to have to work hard to turn this tie around. That's what we did and 11 minutes from time, Berahino grabbed a deserved equaliser. All to play for in the return leg.

    Being at home and with two away goals from the first leg, we were strong favourites to progress. We set about putting the tie to bed as early as possible by pinning the Danes back in their own half. Our dominance finally paid off just before the half hour mark as Jhon Cordoba's composed finish gave us some much-needed breathing space. Aalborg had no answer. We remained on top but the second goal proved elusive. Never mind, 1-0 would do more than nicely. The visitors were needlessly handed a lifeline with 14 minutes to go thanks to a stupid tackle from Youssef Ait Bennasser, with the ref having little option but to send him off. Eight minutes later, Aalborg scored to set up a tense finish. The tension around the ground was palpable but we handled their late rally well to see the game out. 1-1 on the night, 3-3 on aggregate but we advanced on the away goals rule. I was hoping for something a little more comfortable, though.

    Perhaps that would come in the next round, as we faced Irish champions Limerick. It looked a formality on paper but they had stunned Wolfsburg (thanks to a superkeeper) on away goals in the previous round. I was therefore not taking any chances with my team selection. This time we would play the first leg at home. It was a match that we dominated from start to finish but we had to settle for just 3-1. They of course scored with their only effort of the game. The second leg produced no further goals and the less said about it, the better. Our Round 4 opponents after the winter break are:

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  3. #127
    Join Date
    Nijmegen, Netherlands
    Concerning the league title: I fancy Nancy!

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  5. #128
    Join Date
    7 points behind PSG with two games in hand and a game against them at home, I'm expecting the title

    17 points clear of 5th though, you should be nailed on for a top 4 place, and I doubt the other teams around you have played quite as many away games as you!

    How many CL places are there, three? Just need them strikers to start finding the back of the net now.

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