Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Germany & Switzerland October 2016

Starting in Germany and moving on to Switzerland for three games.

14th October  Sonnenhof Grossaspach 2 Paderborn 3  3.liga  1,100 (c. 120 away)

I’d flown into Stuttgart early on the Friday morning before getting the U- and S-bahns to Backnang thence onward by bus to the small town of Aspach.

The Mechatronik Arena comprises neat modern stands and a fine-looking ‘Alpine’ building housing the hospitality rooms.
It is more than enough for the requirements of the local fans.

SG have moved up some levels in contrast to Paderborn who are going in the opposite direction.

For most of this match SG looked to better side but the visitors took their chances and also benefited from playing against ten men for the final twenty minutes.
That was because of a home dismissal following an altercation in the area.

Prior to that SG had gone ahead on 18 minutes when a cross was converted at the near post.
But Slovenian Dedic levelled, following up his penalty after it had been blocked.
1-1 at the break and not long after the interval it was 1-3 as Paderborn converted a couple of chances including one more from Dedic.

Though SG got one back straightaway, from the lively Osei-Kwadwo, they never managed the ultimate equaliser.
That was despite a committed attack even with the ten men.

Paderborn’s win, watched by their small group of ultras, meant they moved closer to their opponents in mid-table.

Because of the relative isolation of the ground there was a reasonably convenient shuttle bus back to the S-bahn.
From there I made my way back to Stuttgart Nord.

15th October  Old Boys 2 Koniz 1  1.Liga Promotion  66

From Stuttgart to Basel and a pair of matches in the city separated by a couple of tram rides.

Firstly a visit to the Schutzenmatte stadium for this third level encounter.
Old Boys have a long history having been originally formed in 1894 and their ground is part of a sports complex that includes a tennis club, home to a useful player called Roger Federer.

The ground itself comprises some elderly terrace plus a sizeable main stand.
On a pleasant afternoon those that turned out saw a solid home win that moved the OB’s up a few places from near the bottom of the table.

They took the lead after 33 minutes when Terzic turned in a corner and that gave them a 1-0 lead at the break.

Following the interval we witnessed a penalty apiece and some late threats by the visitors, including bringing up the goalie for a corner, but OB held on for a valuable three points.

15th October  Basel 3 Luzern 0  Super League  27,261 (c. 250 away)

Meanwhile in the evening, across town, a bigger Basel team were taking on Luzern at the St Jakob.
The away fans produced some impressive pyro and both sets of ultras kept up good support throughout.

But it was the home side, impressively prompted by the midfield of Bjarnason, Serey Die, T. Xhaka and Renato Steffen, that went on to another victory.
This was their tenth out of eleven league matches.

In the end it proved a regulation win with goals from Seydou Doumbia (after a Delgado effort was saved), Michael Long (following a great breakaway move) and Elyounoussi (forced in at the death)
Luzern were reliant on Australian Tomi Juric and although he tested Vaclik in the Basel goal it was never enough to get anything.

Thus Basel kept well clear of the rest in the Super League, no doubt R. Federer would be have been pleased..
Much more serious tests will come in their remaining ties in the Champions League.

16th October  Schaffhausen 1 Servette 2  Challenge League  1,354 (c. 100 away)

Via Zurich to an Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire and home to the Rhine Falls.

And at the ground, a pervading smell of gluhwein.
Not that it was too cold for this Sunday afternoon match in the sunshine.

Schaffhausen will move to a new stadium next year, away from the tree-lined Stadion Breite (terrace plus a couple of smallish stands)
They were two down within about 35 minutes after Berisha and Nsame had converted two half chances.

Despite enhancing their attack the home team managed just a single reply when a trundler from Facchinetti eluded the Servette goalie.
Perhaps if defender Nejc had converted a headed opportunity later on the result might have been different.

But it was the visitors who went away with the points.

I went away down the steep road back to the station for the ride back to my hotel near Zurich airport.
An early night followed my pizza.

Then a morning flight from Zurich airport (ideal for stocking up on caviar and the latest Tourbillon timepiece) to Luton (ideal for not much at the moment apart from maybe getting a parking ticket)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Italy & Slovenia October 2016

A double in Tuscany followed by England’s World Cup qualifier in Slovenia.

Overnight in East Croydon, early train to Gatwick then a flight to Pisa .

Crumbling not leaning.

9th October  Pisa 0 SPAL 1  Serie B   2,722

The Arena Garibaldi, originally opened in 1919 and virtually opposite the leaning tower, has definitely seen better days.
It comprises large open stands/terrace plus a covered main stand.
Because of the crumbly nature of the ground, and the lack of investment, only season ticket holders (and assorted others, such as your correspondent) were allowed inside.

Outside were a large group of ultras who kept up their support, with the occasional flare, despite being unable to watch the action.
Such as it was, as there was not much near the goalmouth for most the contest.

Pisa edged the first half without getting in a serious blow.
The second period developed in a similar way until the visitors gradually had more play.

Just when it looked like an Italian 0-0 we had the decisive moment.
A home attack was repulsed then Antenucci broke down the right, and with space in the home defence, sub. Arini had time to score an easy winner.

Coach Gennaro Gattuso, obviously troubled by the state of the club, continued to bark his instructions but to no avail.
(Incidentally with his voice he could always get a role as a singer for a thrash metal band)

So more issues for Pisa.

I left and crossed the road passing the famous leaning tower and waited at the station for the train to Lucca for game 2.

My name is Lucca.

9th October  Lucchese 4 Lupa Roma 0  Lega Pro  1,810

It was a tight double as I only reached Lucca at about 6.18pm for the 6.30pm kick off.
But a taxi pulled up outside & I was at the ground in time to collect a ticket and make the start.

And see a much more lively encounter with Lucchese delivering three first half goals including a fine third, headed back across the goalie by Francesco Forte.

Being in a strong position at the break the home side did what you would expect - consolidate and waste time.
Lupa had more of the ball but couldn’t penetrate the opposition defence.

The seal on the victory came on 86 minutes when a cross was controlled by Martinez for a simple clincher.

This was another sizeable traditional ground with good sized open standing and covered main stand.

The weather stayed fairly mild and mostly dry for the brisk walk back to station for the return train to Pisa.

Thence onward via a stop in Trieste (including a very pleasant meal in a trattoria) to Ljubljana.

All Hart.

11th October Slovenia 0 England 0  World Cup qualifier  13,274 (c. 1800 away)

Ljubljana was quieter and less attractive on a chilly October day than our previous visit.
But you can enjoy a beer (many had more than one) and a pleasant meal before getting the free bus to the stadium for the 8.45pm start.

And there were less fans inside the stadium than last time.

To see a game that began brightly enough with hard pressing by the home side.
Their tactics certainly served to unsettle England who went on to make a series of passing errors.
As has been evident for some time the defence continued to look vulnerable.

But they were able to keep a clean sheet due to the heroics of Joe Hart in goal.
He made some superb blocks and saves particularly at the beginning of the second period.
Under a cloud since his departure from Man City he even showed composure when in possession.

There were few goalbound efforts from the visitors although sub. Townsend managed  
a tester. Each time Oblak was up to the task.

Not a great night for the watching England fans who now seem to be less tolerant of mistakes and quick to grumble at particular players (e.g. Sturridge)

However it was a point and it means we top the group having completed our likely two most difficult away trips.
Afterwards we pushed our way out (of the narrow exit) to the waiting buses and were back in the centre of town by 11pm.

The following morning I had a relaxing breakfast and stroll to the bus for the return journey via Trieste.