Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Greece September 2008

Larissa 0 Skoda Xanthi 1

An hour and a quarter by train or so from Thessaloniki is Larissa where it was wet, the rain falling all day before this Greek Super League game.

An older style stadium, with mainly open seats and with a track around, this ground will eventually make way for an upgraded version compliant with UEFA rules.

A smallish crowd of around 2,000 including the Larissa 'Monsters' ultra group saw their team succumb to an early header by Nigerian striker Agali. Xanthi continued to be dangerous from set pieces and they generally defended well as Larissa increased the pressure in the second half.

Despite making substitutions Larissa , with an international line-up including Nobby Solano, couldn't break through.

Back in Thessaloniki a bus ride out towards Euosmos finds the basic ground of Agrotikos Asteras. They met Atromitos , recently relegated, in a Beta Ethniki 2nd level game.

The stadium is typically hemmed-in by apartments (with the usual free viewers) and comprises two sides of mostly open seats. But some 700 watched , in better weather, as on a bare pitch Atromitos eventually prevailed 1-0.

The away side should have lead in the first half as they hit the 'woodwork' a couple of times and had more possession. It took a very late injury time goal to decide the game following a
throw-in, scored by substitute Domi.
In the last minutes Atromitos had a man dismissed and a linesman seemed to be hit by a missile but the game ended with a home defeat.

Whilst back in the trendy seaside bars the locals chatted, smoked their cigarettes, and drank their drinks.

for more pics see http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/68545148

Monday, September 15, 2008

Netherlands & Belgium September 2008

AGOVV Apeldoorn v Omniworld (2-2)
A small blue/white styled ground with plenty of cover - needed on this evening as it was raining.

There were not too many away fans and a limited number of home 'ultras' watching as botttom of the table Omniworld benefited from home errors to take a two goal lead.

Dennis Wise lookalike, and AGOVV captain, Martens had looked dangerous and it was his left wing crosses that allowed sub. Bokila to score one and make the second and equalising goal.

In Belgium for :- Olympic Charleroi 1 FC (Molenbeek) Brussels 3

Plenty of terraces at Olympic's ground - not too far from the more famous Sporting Charleroi stadium. Again the rain came down.
Molenbeek brought a decent number of fans and their team won this one convincingly enough.

They caused the home team plenty of problems especially Sonogo , Matumona and Eale in attack. For the ageing, though still looking fit, Toni Brogno - the game passed him by.

The away side were three up before Olympic pulled back a consolation and though they had some pressure near the end it was a comfortable win for the team from the capital.

later the same day :- Excelsior Mouscron 4 AA Gent 2

Top of the 1st league table Excelsior kept their position with a well controlled win over AA.
Impressive striker Ouali got three and made the other.

Gent were better in the second with the substitutions made by coach Preud'homme capitalising on some Excelsior complacency and later edginess with Oulafade getting two back.

But the home side were good value for the win. The 6000 or so made for a decent atmosphere though the AA fans were clearly very frustrated with what they witnessed.

Namur 2 Lierse 2

Thankfully a better day for this game and for those involved in the fun runs in the city on the Sunday afternoon.

The Stade Communal hosted a good contingent from Lierse probably comprising more than the home support in this smallish ground near the river.

Namur took the lead , got pegged back by a nice effort from Bojovic and lead again through Benayen who made amends for his earlier penalty miss.

But in the second half, after Namur had a man sent off, Lierse dominated with their extra height eventually paying off - Bojovic again - this time heading the equaliser.

Lastly a Monday night fixture in Almere near to Amsterdam ...

Omniworld 1 Cambuur Leeuwarden 0

In the 'city of the future' the relatively recently created Omniworld (apparently their origins can be traced back to DWS Amsterdam - who I saw draw with Chelsea in October 1968 in the Fairs Cup) played Cambuur in the Mitsubishi Forklift Stadium.

Nearly 2,000 watched amongst which were a small group from Leeuwarden.

It probably would have been a better game had Zeefuik converted an easy chance from a goalie error in the first half. But it took a Wilco Krimp header to decide the game with fifteen minutes remaining.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Spain & Croatia September 2008

Its a bit warm for the human statues in Las Ramblas but i guess they make reasonable money from the fascinated tourists.
For the England fans its a re-visit to Montjuic to play Andorra and the expectation of a better performance than last time.

At least the weather is better with just a shower beforehand. This writer dodged the rain by
visiting the impressive Catalunya Art Museum , near to the stadium.

Andorra 0 England 2

Somewhat deja vu , goalless at the break and England going off to some booing. It could have been a lot different if the chances carved out by Walcott in the early minutes had resulted in a goal. But they didn´t and it was left to Joe Cole to score two at the beginning of the 2nd to secure the win. As usual Andorra never got close.

The real test will come next Wednesday in Zagreb - difficult to say how England will fare but at the moment a draw would look like an excellent result.

Not many locals would have been at this game , more enjoyed the musical fountains display on Montjuic (or the Coldplay concert)
Back in Las Ramblas the tourists and fans mingled - this mingler preferred the local ambience down the side streets were you could watch Spain play Bosnia in comfort whilst sipping a caipirinha.

An hour or so by train is Girona. Where the old town is relatively quiet and atmospheric on this Sunday afternoon.

Girona 3 Alicante 0
Over 5000 watched together with some on the grassy banks above the partially refurbished stadium. This was Girona's first home game back in the second division for quite a while.

Alicante stayed close up until about the last 10 minutes. They had a man sent off in the second half, somewhat harshly and did create some chances chiefly through Ismael.

But the main man was Gabri who had scored the first and completed the victory by scoring the final goal.
Girona thus top the division , albeit with only two matches played.

From Girona via Barcelona for a stop-over in Berlin and in particular the Kreuzberg area of the city where a Persian meal plus a caipirinha went down well.

Germanwings to the Croatian capital. Its warm and sunny in Zagreb ready for the England game.

First take in some culture - the Technical museum and the Naive Art Museum featured this time.

Croatia 1 England 4

So if nil-nil was considered a good result beforehand what about a 4-1 away win ?

The locals generated some atmosphere in the un-improved Maksimir Stadium. But England ran out easy winners. They'd quietened the crowd with Walcott's rather fortunate first goal and survived some scares in the first half.

Whilst in the dramatic second period , after Robert Kovac got sent off for his elbow on Joe Cole's head , England put together some impressive moves with Rooney usually involved. Walcott did the rest.

Maybe we had above average luck and Croatia had a bad night at the office. But it will give us great confidence for the rest of the World Cup campaign.

With no reports of any trouble as well presumably even the Bad Blue Boys had an early night.

for more pics see http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/67463210

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Switzerland August 2008

From the somewhat crowded shores of the Med. to the tranquillity of Switzerland .

Just the 8 hours of driving to get there.

And in a late August weekend it was busy , especially through the Saint Gotthard tunnel.

But calming for sure to be in Suhr, near to Aarau.

Within walking distance is the smallish ground of FC Aarau got to via a quiet road, with stream alongside, past pleasant houses.

Aarau o Basel 2

Tranquil nearby - but not behind the goal amongst the Basel ultras as they dispensed with their shirts and lit the flares and set about creating the atmosphere and rhythm that was sustained pretty much through the whole game.

A sell-out crowd saw their team , still managed by Christian Gross, get the better of the generally predictable home side.

Scott Chipperfield, sometime Australian, bossed midfield in a style reminiscent of a left footed Paul Scholes.

He scored the first just before half time after a defensive error.

Basel wapped it up in the second half and consolidated top spot in the Swiss Super League.

Not too far to Neuchatel and :-

Neuchatel Xamax 2 Vaduz 2

The re-built Stade de la Maladiere is coloured mostly red and represents a pleasant medium size stadium next to the lake.
Inside there was nothing like the atmosphere of yesterday though as the home ultras expressed their annoyance at the recent performances (no home wins so far) in a third-full ground.

Vaduz dominated midfield in the first half and went on to score twice before the interval.

But Xamax got it together better in the second with sub. Rak and Nigerian Brown getting them a point.
It didn't do much to assuage their supporters criticism.

This visitor finished the trip via a slow drive to Basel through the very attractive Jura mountains region. Then returning home from the slightly less attractive Luton airport.

Super Cup in Monaco August 2008

Monaco is small and cramped especially when trying to park your rental car.

But nearby Nice, where this visitor stayed was, well - nice.

In the warm weather , wandering along the promenade (des anglais) was most pleasant. Combine that with a carafe of local wine and a steak piquante and you have a very conducive evening.

Back in Monaco, via the picturesque coastal road, the Man Utd fans were outnumbered by about 3 or 4 to one as the place was full of Russians.

Though typically the Super Cup has a much lower profile in England it must be frustrating for Sir Alex to lose again in the Principality.

Mostly Zenit looked the dangerous team though Man Utd had more possession in the first half. Tevez stood out for his effort but otherwise they struggled to create many chances.

So Zenit took their opportunities and were deserved 2-1 winners with star man Arshavin making just a second half appearance.

for more pics see http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/65017730