Wednesday, February 17, 2016

France February 2016

Three games in France including a visit to the new stadium in Lyon.

I flew to Lyon, got the pricey tram to Part Dieu then on by train north to Bourg-en-Bresse.

Arriving on the Thursday night I had time to enjoy some fine food.
Just about resisting the ‘menu gourmand’ I settled for the pate, steak and fromage together with a few glasses of vin rouge.
As we know in France food is taken seriously and so it was on this rainy night in a conducive atmosphere in one of the local brasseries.

After that I slept well.

The next day I tried to dodge the rain and had a coffee in the rather incongruous Rodeo Coffee place in the centre of town - featuring cacti, cowboy music and a picture of the Magnificent Seven on the wall.
Very French.

Anyway back to the plot…

12th February 2016  Bourg en Bresse 0 Laval 0  Ligue 2    2,595

Near to the centre is the Stade Marcel Verchere, a facility shared with the local Rugby team.
It is basically three sides of covered, not especially cosy, semi-temporary stands with one end comprising food and souvenir outlets.
At one of these I enjoyed a hot vin rouge which went down well in the inclement conditions.

Despite the persistent rain the surface, being artificial, wasn’t really affected.
Of more import was the lack of quality of the players.

And so we had an outcome not unknown in the French 2nd division - a goalless draw.

However it was not quite as bad as it sounds as there were some moments, particularly in the first period when the goal was threatened.
A Boussaha free kick was well saved by the Laval goalie and striker Sane should have done better when put through - his left foot effort being far too weak.

Laval had their best chance when a corner routine ended with a close range header - well blocked by Fabri in the Bourg goal.    

Into the second half, and despite some substitutions, we had limited goalmouth action.
Bourg did most of the pressing culminating in a flurry of activity near the finish but all to no avail.

So these two mid-table sides gained a point each.
Hopefully the large number of kids present enjoyed their evening out.

And I gained a soaking during the fairly short walk back to my hotel.

13th February Grenoble Foot ‘38  2 Sarre-Union 0  CFA Group B   c. 1,200

Travelling south to Grenoble the weather was milder and considerably drier.

I had chosen a rare dip into the lower levels of French football partly because a visit to Grenoble, a very pleasant city, fitted my schedule and it also meant I could checkout their relatively new stadium.
Which for a sizeable new build was nicely close to the city centre - somewhat of a rarity these days.

The home team have a decent group of ultras and they did their thing along the one side.

Perhaps their team could be on their way back up from this fourth level as the win helped consolidate their top position.
But they will need some more players if they are to progress.

At times the passing was woeful on both sides and the quality very moderate.
Another feature was the diminutive size of one or two participants, for instance the away goalie.

He was eventually left helpless when Grenoble scored their two second half goals.
First was a free kick headed in by Cianci on 56 minutes and the second an easy finish for David when in acres of space soon after.

More goals might have followed but the visitors, who rarely threatened kept it down to two.

Certainly Grenoble have the infrastructure and reasonable support to move back up the divisions and maybe they will, eventually.

I walked back towards the centre and settled for a pizza plus more, hard to resist, vin rouge.

14th February  Ol. Lyon 4 Caen 1  Ligue 1  38,624 (c. 80 away)

Back to Lyon by train and a stay at one of the Ibis hotels near Part Dieu.

Unlike the expensive airport tram the local one, along a similar line from the main station, to Decines Grand Large costs only 1.80 euros and takes around 30 minutes.

And you see an impressive Parc OL.
What you also notice is a multitude of stewards and security staff.
OL must have spent millions on those high visibility jackets.

It felt like you were already at the Euros judging by the queues and security.
And in the substantial retail store.

Once inside you are presented with a three tier stadium in red/white and blue with the Virage Nord and the, smaller, Virage South fans arranged at either end.
Up above, out-of-the-way behind the mesh, was a small group of away fans.

The only way to obtain any refreshment was via the dreaded ‘fan card’.
I passed on that.

But the locals produced plenty of noise typified by the ‘OL’ chant and you could imagine the ground would be very atmospheric when full.

The game certainly turned to be watchable with OL getting off to a fast start after a Valbuena (always a joy to see) corner was nodded back by Tolisso for Ntiti to head in from close range.
Caen protested for a push but the goal was allowed.

A second came on 16 with Ferri setting up Lacazette to run through and shoot home.
The striker delivered then but he did miss a couple of other chances.
But he does looks the part with that predatory sharpness all finishers need.

Caen had opportunities of their own including a free kick and chances for Ntibazonkiza and Rodelin.
But the home side completed an excellent first period by scoring just before the break when Cornet was set free on the right to slot home.

Into the second and Caen got their consolation on 58 when a right wing cross found the energetic Delort and he scored at the far post.
For a while they might have got another as the game became more open.

Then near the end Tolisso had space on the edge of the area to clinch the win with a fine right foot effort.
Overall it had been a solid performance by OL aided by the quick start and they should be in the top four soon.

Exiting the stadium you have a choice of trams, either right outside with a longish queue, or further on, with a more comfortable queue at the Grand Large stop.

Anyway back near Part Dieu station I subsequently stopped for some sushi and some football on tv from ‘another planet’ (i.e. Barcelona)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Portugal February 2016

Two games in Portugal including a visit to Coimbra to see Academica.

6th February Tondela 1 Vitoria Guimaraes 1  Primeira Liga  1,432 (c. 300 away)

I made the trip via Porto and Coimbra to the small, quiet, town of Tondela overlooked by the Serra do Caramulo.

CD Tondela are new to the top flight and they are generally finding it tough.

But on this very wet Saturday night they were perhaps a little unlucky not to get a valuable victory.
The underfoot conditions, with plenty of surface water on the artificial pitch, often served to thwart their chances.

It all began very well for the higher ranked visitors who went ahead after a couple of minutes after a left wing cross was diverted in by Luis Lica.
For a while it seemed Vitoria would score again but Tondela forced themselves into the match and eventually levelled when a shot from Nathan Junior went through the hands of Miguel in the away goal.

The half finished even though the home side might have been ahead if a couple of penalty area scrambles had fallen their way.

As the night turned chillier the rain continued and we witnessed a more fragmented second half of too many yellow cards and a few annoying, often spurious, injuries.
Vitoria threatened from some set plays and Tondela again lucked out.

So the largish number from Guimaraes, including the noisy (and soaked) ‘White Angels’ could travel home with a decent point in their quest for European football.

While Tondela itself would no doubt liven up considerably when the imminent ‘Carnaval’ comes to town.

7th February  Academica 2 Nacional 2  Primeira LIga   2,879 (c. 20 away)

Combra is an hour or so from Tondela and I made the bus ride on the Sunday morning before this afternoon game.

My last visit to this Euro 2004 stadium was when England beat Switzerland before around 28,000 ; considerably less watched this league game.

But nevertheless we saw some late drama.

Played in much better,dry,conditions than the previous evening the teams could develop passing moves in normal fashion.

It began with Academica doing most of the pressing and they tested Gottardi in the Nacional goal.
With the first half about to end the home side scored a fine goal.

A long crossfield pass was controlled by Plange and he drove in a great shot for the opener.

However the effective lead was only about a minute as right after the interval Nacional equalised.
The first of two own goals - this one diverted in via a right wing cross.

The second came a couple of minutes later following a great run by Bonilha.

That prompted much grumbling from the home crowd.

Nacional, like Academica badly in need of the points, should have wrapped things up but they probably thought they would get home anyway as the time moved towards to the final minute.

But a free kick was not properly cleared and home defender Joao Real prodded home the equaliser for 2-2.

Despair for the Nacional players.
Then they must score - Pedro Trigueira lost the ball - but the chance slipped agonisingly wide.

More Nacional guys slumped to the ground.

So plenty of final drama for this neutral but probably not too comfortable for the two coaches.

Afterwards I walked, mostly downhill, back to my central hotel.
The evenings entertainment being some bacalhau (cod), wine and Real Madrid on TV.