Going South (Episode 21 – Shep: Managerial Globetrotter)

What an embarrassment of a football team.

“Pierre, I appreciate the sentiment and your, erm commitment to your job but I’m also committed to my job. This is the last thing I need on my plate right now.”

The Frenchman doesn’t deflate or allow any of his enthusiasm to seep out of his body. “Hungary and Peru Connor! They are still interested and are looking into you as the future of their country! Does that not excite you, does that not make you tingle inside no?”

“If I’m honest Pierre, no.” I respond with my eyebrow raised quizzically.

“What about a new club? There are plenty of clubs looking for managers, even some English clubs! A return to England, making a name for yourself in your homeland. Surely that interests you?”

I go to speak but instead use my breath to exhale a sigh. “Not right now. In the future? Maybe but not right now. I need to focus on getting our shit together here before fucking off elsewhere. I’ll give you a ring when I need you alright mate?” Pierre Pinot nods, smiles and closes the door behind him. He’s clearly amazing at his job with some of the stuff he’s managed to send my way already and he will definitely come in handy. But, as I said, not right now.

Those with a good memory will realise that this game against Independiente Medellin is  actually the first time I’ll face them. We played them in the final game of the Apetura in which Ricky oversaw a 2-2 draw with goals from Rovira and Morison. A win here would take us up to third on goal difference if Tolima lose to America de Cali who are just behind us on 26 points but if I’m honest, I just want a win of any kind right now.

Palacios and Gonzalez are the partnership in front of Ramos. Salazar returns from his suspension with Rolls Royce up front. To say our attackers are in a dry spell is an understatement with the last goal from a striker coming in our 2-2 draw against Junior almost a month and a half ago. It’s a misty evening in Bucaramanga which could be a prime example of pathetic fallacy as I’m struggling to see the goals.

img_1353

It only takes seven minutes for the deadlock to be broken when Medellin win a free kick a yard or two into our half. Cano drills the ball to the edge of the box where Blanco leaps high and manages to curl a header beautifully into the top right. Not a thing anyone could do about that one so let’s not let our heads drop.

In the 24th minute, Luna plays an incisive pass to Blanco in the box who has his near post attempt saved by Ramos. He doesn’t have to wait long for his brace however as Ricaurte’s corner finds his noggin and he nods it between Ramos and Rodriguez on the near post for 2-0. Still no cause for panic. Plenty of time left.

img_1354

With five minutes of the first half to go, another Medellin corner is awarded but as Blanco’s taking this one, I assume we’re safe. We are not. It’s a a perfect corner for Caicedo to power a header into the top left. Three fucking nil, three fucking headers. Salazar does hand us a lifeline a couple minutes later with a weaving run past three players that allows him to hit a stinging shot towards the top right but a quality save from the keeper puts a halt to any brief dream of a remarkable comeback.

Now I’ll save you the bloody, gory details of my half-time team talk. To summarise: there were broken clipboards, holes in walls, an alarmingly unhealthy amount of screaming and a detailed explanation of how I’d like to surgically remove my eyeballs. You’d imagine they’d get the message.

Lone behold, mere minutes into the second half, Calle has the centre circle all to himself. Consequently, he has time to  stroll forward and pick out Cano. His ball between Torres’ legs to Caicedo is hit first time ferociously past Ramos to make the score 4-0. I ask Ricky to signal for a sub through my rage-induced twitches and Morison replaces Quintero with Operation Spearhead the choice for the rest of the game.

img_1355

In the 58th minute, we finally look to have woken up as Cardenas skips by Quinones and passes to Morison. A good overlapping run by Gabby is rewarded with a clear shot on goal but it cannons off the bar. The rebound header is won by the captain but Andres Mosquera catches easily. Our short spell of action is brought to an end a couple minutes later when Cano is played through on the right. Rodriguez does win the aerial battle but his header falls for Calle to twat a volley at goal which Ramos parries away. Asprilla comes on for Salazar, who I completely ignore just as much as I ignored Quintero fifteen minutes ago.

I make my last sub in the 77th minute with Rovira replacing Cardenas but he has no impact. Ramos does his best job at damage control with a few fine saves in the dying embers but the full time whistle puts us our of our misery. Hands down our worst performance to date and for the first time, boos ring around the Alfonso Lopez. I shake hands with the necessary people, do a circle of clapping to the fans and storm down the tunnel and into my office. What an embarrassment of a football team.

img_1356

I hibernate for the following day. I don’t want to lay my eyes on any of that squad. Someone still finds a way to piss me off when Aguirre calls me to pile onto my current woes. He wants to be sold at the end of the season. He’ll be sold at the end of the season. He can fuck off.

When I finally dare to check the league table, I see we’ve dropped into fifth with four points between ourselves and ninth place. The local papers run a piece to try lighten the mood around Bucaramanga debating whether it would be better for us to finish in the lower positions in the knockout spots as we’d most likely face Tolimas and Huila instead of Once Caldas and Junior. Ideally want the best spot possible to avoid any late drama but an easier run into the final would be appreciated. Is there an easy run with the way we’re playing though?

First, we have to confirm our place in the play-offs. A win at the Estadio Deportivo Cali would do that. If we don’t get it down here though, our next game is against lowest scoring side in the league Leones. Our final game of the season is against second place Huila so I’d rather get it out the way before then.

It’s hard to justify keeping the same keeper after he conceded four so the soon-to-be retired Delgado gets a start in net. Gonzalez is the only defender to keep his place. Jeferson Torres and Mojica are back in with Quintero and Salazar whilst Neumann and Morison are strike partners for first time since the opening day of September.

img_1357

Twelve minute after kick-off, we’re looking pretty solid for the first time in weeks. Gabby bullies Cabrera off the ball and wins the resulting header to Morison. He lays it off for Gabby who delicately lifts a pass over the top for Neumann to run into. It’s got a smidge too much on it for my liking but Neumann tries to chip the keeper who gets a fingertip to it and turns it onto the roof of the net. The corner is a poor one however and the move dies out.

For the next half hour, Cali have more of the ball but they’re doing nothing with it. A few wayward Mojica shots from the edge of the box are the only points of interest until the 41st minute. Cali finally work the ball into our final third and pick out Murillo with a ball down the line. His first time cross should be dealt with by Cufre but Carbonero comes flying in with a header that skims the bar. I would have been fuming if we conceded there and Cufre would have felt the full wrath.

Just before half time, Mosquera receives the ball after the initial cross from Neumann was headed out. I have to spare a thought and ask myself how many bloody Mosquera’s are there in this league? Anyways, he’s under pressure from Jeferson and attmepts a suicide ball back into the box for Rosero Valencia to deal with. He rushes a pass out straight to Neumann who smacks a shot to the far side of the goal but a deflection from Balanta puts it neatly into the keeper’s arms.

By the time the interlude arrives, Cali have still had no shots on target but have had the majority of possession. We’ve been finding Neumanns runs behind the key factor in our attacks so he’s encouraged to stay forward and hang off the shoulder. Jeferson Torres drops into holding midfield so Quintero can take Gabby’s place in the second half.

It takes a good twenty minutes for either side to push forward but when someone finally does, it’s Cali. They’re turning up the heat with some tasty crosses. The last of four in quick succession is met with a good front post header which is questionably parried by Delgado but he pounces on the rebound. Palacios and Asprilla take over from Gonzalez and Mojica for the rest of the match.

In the 72nd minute, Cali really start showing their superior quality with a high quantity passing move that finishes with a perfect triangle exchange. Giraldo passes sideways to Balanta and makes the run across him before Balanta finds Murillo. A cool touch to take it forward before stretching to knock past Torres for Giraldo who is free on the penalty spot. It’s an awkward height and he uses his instep to try and find the top right and puts it centimetres wide.

This second half has been all in favour of Los Verdiblancos and into the final minute of added time, there’s no exception. They’re searching for an opening and prying for the winning goal. Mosquera to Benedetti. Benedetti to Balanta. Balanta to Angelo who hits a worrying shot from the edge of the box but it’s curls whiskers wide of the post. The game ends immediately after and while it’s not the three points I would have liked, it’s undoubtedly better than losing 4-0. The first half was all us, second half was all them. A point is fair.

img_1358

During that game, Morison picked up a dubious yellow card was his third so he’ll miss the final home game of the season against Leones. A game in which anything but a loss will confirm our place in the knockouts. The last time we scored a goal was in September so here’s hoping we finally remember where the fucking goal is.

img_1359

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s