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.

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