Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Denmark April 2016

Two games in the Danish Superliga.

I flew to Aarhus and made the fairly short journey to Hobro.
It was safe to say Hobro was not at its most vibrant.

23rd April  Hobro 2 Esbjerg 2 Superliga   1,570 (c. 100 away)

This was an entertaining encounter between the bottom two on a chilly Saturday afternoon.

Hobro are suffering from second season syndrome after reaching the top level last campaign they have found it difficult in this, having won only two matches out of 25.
It probably did not help that their coach, Jonas Dahl, left (and went to Esbjerg) as did a number of the players.

But they started well with Korean Park particularly active in attack.
And on 28 minutes they hit the post and definitely had the better of the first half.

However it did not end well as the visitors no 19, Ronnie Schwartz, scored from close range from a last minute corner.
It was harsh on Hobro.

But, perhaps helped by a motivational team talk, the home side were soon level.

Then on 73 minutes Schwartz was again well positioned to make it 2-1.

Another defeat loomed for Hobro.
But another no 19, Anders Holvad,  stepped up to volley a great second leveller - in the final  minute.

That gave the home fans something to enjoy and it was a deserved point for the soon to be relegated home side.

I stayed in the nearby hostel where I watched the Man Utd semi-final (plus Barca) in the company of some junior footballers.

Later I beat some of them at pool and table tennis.
Judging by their technique they had not had a misspent youth (yet)

24th April  Viborg 1 FC Copenhagen 1  Superliga   4,437 (c. 300 away)

From Hobro to the pleasant town of Viborg.

Prior to the game I enjoyed a meal and drink in the company of the ever-urbane psychoanalyst guru Chris Oakley.
We dissected some Mexican poets and then strolled along to the game.

Which was another watchable match characterised by a steady FCK build up and dominant possession for the league leaders.
However though they delivered plenty of dangerous crosses they were thwarted by the home defence and the solid home goalie.

In fact Viborg went in front early after Kamper beat the offside and slotted the opener.

The home team should have gone further ahead in the second half but Jeppe Curth’s spot kick was well saved by the FCK keeper.
It would prove a costly miss.

As eventually the FCK pressure, in front of the away fans, told and Delaney managed to divert in a corner for 1-1.
A red card for US player George Fochive rather spoilt the Viborg performance but nevertheless it was a decent point for the home side.

While FCK will move on towards another title they certainly don’t look good enough to trouble anybody of note in the Champions League.

Post game I had some ribs and a glass of vino in the Jensens Bofhus - one of the few options open on this Sunday night.

The next day I took the train from Viborg to Aarhus.
On the train were groups of youngsters going there for the Blue Monday confirmation celebrations.

I’m sure Chris Oakley can help if you happen to suffer from ‘Blue Monday’, or any other ‘Monday’ syndrome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Italy April 2016

Three games in Italy including a visit to Serie B leaders Crotone.

Pythagoreans draw.

15th April 2016  Crotone 0 Spezia 0  Serie B   9,229 ( c. 50 away)

Crotone (or Kroton) is famous for its Olympic athletes - the ancient Olympics that is - and being the home of Pythagoras.

But soon it will also be famous for having a team in Serie A.

Walking around the city you see red & blue flags everywhere.
The locals are anticipating a piece of history.

Not surprising since their heroes were sixteen points clear at the head of Serie B.

Although this was only goalless draw, not unknown in Italy, it was another step along the way for Crotone FC.

Spezia, likely to be in the playoffs themselves didn’t make it easy and they edged the first period.
The visitors created more chances but were let down by weak finishing.

Croatian striker Budimir did get the ball in the Spezia net but it was ruled out and generally the somewhat nervy home side were second best and obviously below par.

They did better in the second, though Spezia always offered threats going forward.

The match culminated in some late drama with a Palladino shot (he occasionally provided threats) and a goalmouth scramble which included Crotone hitting the post.

But no goals, despite which the home players celebrated, some bereft of their shorts, with the Curva Sud ultras.

It seems only a matter of time before these players and especially their Croatian coach Ivan Turic will be better known.

Bruno delivers the knockout.

16th April  Giana Erminio 2 Cremonese 1  Lega Pro  1,064 (c. 50 away)

I took a Ryanair flight from Crotone to Bergamo (those from the south cheered loudly when the plane landed), onward to Milan, then the metro to Gorgonzola.

The stadium is in the centre of this small town and nearby you can enjoy some fine wine in a local bar, next to the river.
Though the famous cheese was not amongst the nibbles there was plenty of other options,

Inside the ground I watched an entertaining, third level, encounter.

Despite the visitors being on top for most of the first half it was the guys from Gorgonzola who went ahead when Perico met a corner to volley them into the lead on 28 minutes.

Cremonese hit the frame of the goal a couple of times including a cracker from Pesce but they trailed at the break.

But soon after they were level when Breghenti diverted a shot past Paleari for the equaliser.

Then Salvatore Bruno took over.
Firstly the experienced Luca Vialli lookalike produced a spectacular overhead that was well saved, then he controlled a crossfield ball and drove in a fine winner.

It prompted much celebration.

And the home side comfortably held out for the victory.

Forza Ferretti.

17th April  Pavia 2 Reggiana 0  Lega Pro  680 (c. 80 away)

From Gorgonzola I stopped off in Pavia for this Sunday afternoon game between two mid-table teams.

The local ground, of four raised stands, feels very traditional.

To the left were a sizeable group of away fans plus many flags.

Sadly for them their team couldn’t quite capitalise on a promising start that including going close from a number of crosses.
Home goalie, Davide Facchin, was often in the way and he had a fine game.

The tide turned on 37 minutes when Malomo was at the far post to convert a left wing cross by Ferretti.
So Pavia went in one up and they added a second soon after the interval as Ferretti himself guided in a left footer.

The same man might have had another later but he mishit the opportunity.

As the half wore on it became clear that the visitors would not get back into the match.
And despite a generous six minutes of additional time they never really looked like recovering.

My route took me to the station, via Alessandria, on to Turin and the following day back to the UK.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Portugal April 2016

Two games on the island of Madeira.

2nd April  Maritimo 2 Nacional 0     Liga  7,098 (c.250 away)

This Madeiran derby was played at the partly redeveloped home of Maritimo.
At the moment only three sides are in use.
They comprise medium sized covered stands while the fourth side will include ‘boxes’ for the corporates.

The visitors from up the mountain had about 250 fans mostly behind one goal but they were also dotted around the ground.

And we saw a feisty first half with plenty of fouls and cards.
Not least a red for Maritimo top scorer Dyego Sousa - an outcome that should really have turned the match towards Nacional.

It seemed to inspire the home side who had the worst of the goalless first period.

But the second was a minor triumph for Maritimo who scored a spectacular opener when Edgar Costa controlled and volleyed in from 25 yards.

They added the clincher near the end when a defender error allowed Eber Bessa to be set free to score left footed and send the fans into ecstasy.

Nacional were disappointing, creating little, and having played against ten men for most of the match.

I made my way back downhill stopping for some soup and salad while watching a man from Madeira (Ronaldo) score the winner at the Nou Camp.

3rd April  Uniao Madeira 2 Vitoria Setubal 2  2,495 (c. 50 away)

The next day I took the bus along the coast to the small town of Ribeira Brava where Uniao play most of their matches.
This small club is one of the oldest in Portugal though it has spent recent years in the lower reaches of the league system.

But having been promoted last season Uniao is trying to consolidate alongside the other two clubs on the island.

And for most of this game, against the visitors from near Lisbon, they looked like getting the three points.
Brazilian Amilton opened the scoring when he latched onto a left wing cross and the same man would outmuscle a defender to score the second on 36 minutes.

Uniao thus went in 2-0 up and in good shape.

But the Setubal coach brought on Hassan to join Salim Cisse up front and that change would eventually make a difference.
Firstly Cisse was well positioned to convert a cross to make it 2-1 and gradually you felt the visitors might get back to parity.

However they had to endure numerous stoppages and various substitutions before, during the six minutes of added time, Hassan headed on for sub Vasco Costa to level it up.

He celebrated wildly and in taking off his shirt was booked and hence dismissed as he had, some moments before, already been given a yellow card.
Somewhat harsh, not that he cared too much.

Overall the result was tough on Uniao who might still survive despite this setback.

Back in Funchal you could enjoy the outdoor ambience whilst partaking of some vino tinto.