Rob Tait is here to kick off your week as Sao Paulo prepare to tackle the second tier of the World League. Can Denilson and Fowler pick up where they left off?
It is the beginning of season three, Sao Paulo have smashed through the bottom two divisions of International England with a “slightly” overpowered team and are beginning life in division one, mixinging it with the slightly bigger boys. In order to prepare for life in division one I go a little crazy and sign ten players. Viktor will replace Margas as club captain and centre back, Ian Searle is the reincarnation of Big Nev Southall and the rest speak for themselves. I was trying to sign the Icelandic regeneration superstar however my club reputation must have fallen as I couldn’t activate his big club release clause!
The league begins early August and game one is away to Bielefeld it’s not the start we were hoping for as Richie Wright puts it into his own net after 14 minutes and we struggle to do anything worthwhile, maybe signing ten players has upset the squad blend. Game one and we have hit 50% of the losses we suffered last year.
We have a nice gentle tie next against Middlesbrough, they are still in division three, I really thought they would have made it out of there by now. We score a couple of early goals to settle the nerves and have it all wrapped up by half time.
We take the confidence of our victory against Middlesbrough to Germany to face Stuttgart, they are captained by Vinny Jones. Again we score a couple of early goals and go in at the break 3-0 up. Jim Magilton gets an 89th minute consolation goal and we have our first points of the season.
We travel from Stuttgart to the Riverside for the second leg of our league cup tie against Middlesbrough. We do our best to mess up the first leg win as Richie Wright concedes every shot they have on target. Denilson’s 46th minute goal sees us through 4:3 on aggregate. The early inconsistency is worrying.
Back to Germany again and this time we play Frankfurt, Fowler and Denilson seem to be finding a little bit of rhythm, back to back league wins.
League game four and our first home match, Real Zaragoza come to the Morumbi. 77,000 fans (about half the stadium capacity) watch Fowler, Pirri and Denilson do the business in front of goal supported by a strong team performance.
Three days later we are off to the Parque Sao Jorge to play local (Brazil) rivals Corinthians. Since leaving Middlesbrough for Brazil, who can blame him? Bryan has guided Corinthians to successive promotions, they have also become a thorn in our side and today is no different. Enrico Chiesa left Parma for Barcelona however after a season and a half of not playing he was fed up, I toyed with the idea of buying him and after this result I wish I had, five games into the season and we have lost the same number of games as we did the whole of last season.
Back to Sao Paulo against Besiktas, they come playing for a draw, and only manage one off target shot all game. We suffer a couple of key losses, Doni out for 3 months but Deni’s goal secures the points.
Northern Spain and the Bay of Biscay is the destination of our next game. A fast start as Abel Xavier scores a header in the third minute. Santander don’t offer much and after being fouled for the 73rd time Joao Pinto loses his cool and elbows their right back in the face. We manage to last the last 30minutes with 10 men and get another three points.
Midweek at the Morumbi sees French side Strasbourg come to town, it’s another away team who are playing for a draw or even that luck win and this time despite our eight shots on target the only goal of the game is scored by Strasbourg striker Kelly Koutenay. Loss number three and we haven’t even got through the first third of the season.
Our next opponents are AIK Stockholm, this time we make our early pressure tell, Fowler and Pirri with the first half goals that secure a deserved victory.
Our second Scandinavian opponents in three days and the home of one of our previous “stars” Barry Venison who is still plying his trade at 35. He doesn’t make the match day squad so has to watch from the stands as Fowler and Abel X give us a 2-0 lead in the first leg of our League cup 2nd round tie.
French opponents Lens offer nothing to the game and Denlson’s brace, one in each half makes the difference. We are edging towards 100,000 fans for a league game.
A third home match in a row and a team who have challenged for promotion the last couple of years, Roberto Baggio’s Bologna. It’s a more even game in terms of statistics but we are clinical in front of goal, Abel Xavier contributing again from right back and Fowler getting a brace. We pass the 100,00 spectator mark for a league game which can only be positive for the bank balance.
We’ve found a little bit of form in the league now so when Anderlecht get a player sent off just before half time we can dominate the match. Fowler with another two and MIguel, who has been pushed down the pecking order by Doni, Emmers and Pirlo gets a start and makes it count.
The midweek game is the second leg of the league cup, we manage to get the win with a strongish side but again make hard work of it all.
From one Norwegian side to another, Brann have Mons-Ivar Mjelde up top, he is a great goal scorer but fortunately not today, we are rolling now.
Last game of the update, a midweek home game against Boavista, the game is over in the first ten minutes and Denilson puts the icing on the cake just after the half hour. That win makes it 12 out of 15 in the league and we are top of the table.
We have a small lead at the top of the table over German side Bielefeld, both sides are good in front of goal but we have a slightly tighter defence thanks to Richie, Marcio and Viktor.
Onto the middle third of another super long season, I’m not saying anything about cup runs anymore after my previous overly optimistic views.