2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Season 2, Part 4 | @cmclassicsquads

Hello fellow Champ man-ers, and welcome to part 4. Last week the Aces began to hit some form, continuing to take points off the big sides, and putting one foot into the cup quarter-finals. We rejoin the action with a trip to 14th-placed Genoa…

Genoa are another side who joined us in promotion from Serie B last season, and they haven’t won in 4 games. Hofland returns for Klompe and Kerr is in for the injured Lundén. It’s level at half time after Madeira cancels out Varini’s early goal. We continue to threaten in the second half, but despite 6/12 shots on target, it’s another frustrating draw. We really could have done with a win there with the games we’ve got coming up.

I know this blog is mainly about the stars of CM01/02, but I couldn’t not mention perhaps the biggest CM97/98 legend of all getting a big-money move.

Now it’s time for the second leg of our Coppa Italia quarter-final with Bologna. We’ve a 2-1 lead from the first leg, and I stick with the same side that drew with Genoa. I know he needs time after such a horrific injury, but I’m really intrigued to see how good Mark Kerr can become, and he does nothing to harm his cause as he puts us ahead shortly before half time.

With a 3-1 lead, we relax a bit in the second half. Bologna go close a few times, but Frey is on form and keeps them out to earn himself man of the match. Kerr gets an 8/10 rating to accompany his goal, so maybe things are looking up for him. Into the semis we go!

The board are pleased with the win, and we’ll face Juventus in the semi-finals.

Having edged past them in the cup last week, we now face Roma in the league. They are struggling down in 14th place, but they’re still one of the top sides and we must treat them as such. Victory returns at left back, but Okoronkwo keeps his place at centre back as West is suspended, and N’Diaye is skipper.

Moukoko gets his second goal in 5 games after just 2 minutes, but Marco Del Vecchio restores parity just 4 minutes later. We have a penalty shout denied on 22 minutes, but Madeira puts us back in front straight away, and Tsigalko makes it 3-1 just before half time. Selakovic gets in on the act just past the hour, and Tsigalko gets his second with 11 minutes remaining to give us yet another great result over another top side.

The board say it’s a good result and remind me that they’re still delighted, as am I when I find out that Piacenza lost to Inter, meaning we’re now only 2 points off 4th place. More good news follows as Lundén and Källström return from injury.

The big games keep coming, and next it’s Inter Milan, who are a place below us in 6th, but only on goal difference. They’ve predictably made some big summer signings, including Costacurta, Del Piero, Ricken and Ganz. Amazingly Ronaldo starts on the bench as the Nerazzuri opt for Del Piero and Djorkaeff up front. Our only change is West for Okoronkwo.

It’s a busy start to the game, with Zanetti getting sent off and N’Diaye injured, so Victory moves across to defensive midfield, and Okoronkwo comes on at left back. We should definitely be in front at half time after 5/6 shots on target and an extra man, but Pagliuca has kept his team in it.

It takes just 4 second half minutes for the game to spring to life, with Del Piero putting the hosts ahead, before West equalises against his former club in the same minute. We try and try but just can’t seem to get another goal, and it’s another draw that should have been a win. Pagliuca unsurprisingly got 9/10. The board still say it’s a good result though.

N’Diaye is out for a couple of weeks, so misses our next match, a home tie with Parma, who’s only injury is Lilian Thuram. They’ve sold Enrico Chiesa to Juventus, but still have Hernan Crespo and Kennet Andersson up front. The aforementioned Binotto isn’t even in the squad, neither are Nicola Ventola or Tino Asprilla, so that could be a positive. In N’Diaye’s absence, I keep Victory in defensive midfield and Okoronkwo at left back.

We concede early from a corner, and after fighting back with 10 shots at goal, it’s another frustrating half, with Buffon having the game of his life in the Parma goal. The one-way traffic continues in the second half, and despite a total of 24 shots on goal and 2 last-minute goalmouth scrambles, it’s draw number 9 and we slip to 6th at the halfway point of the season after Inter won to leapfrog us.

Back to the start we go then, and it’s Atalanta at home. This game will do well to match the epic 3-3 draw with 4 red cards at the start of the season, but I’ll take any win now. Our only change is Lundén in for Kerr. After 8/15 shots on target, we’re somehow 1-0 down at half time and Fontana, the Atalanta keeper is predictably playing out of his skin.

We resume dominating in the second half, but no matter what we do, we just can’t score (for the first time in 10 games), and Fontana is man of the match. I’ve never posted a screenshot of the match stats in any of my blogs, but I’ll make an exception here. How have we not won this game? Answers on a postcard please.

The board tell me it’s a poor result and who can blame them?

It’s not often I’m pleased to see a player leave, but I’m delighted when Pescara make a loan approach for Bakircioglü, and I hope the move proves to be a successful one for his development.

With a cup semi-final against Juventus on the horizon, it’s a dress rehearsal in the league. We took them by surprise on the first day of the season and won 2-0, but something tells me they’ll be looking to avenge that defeat. I go with the extra centre back formation, with Okoronkwo in for Tsigalko.

The early signs aren’t good, and after wave after wave of Juve attacks, they take a 2-0 lead in for half time. I figure things can’t get much worse, and decide to make some changes and play Madeira, Tsigalko and Samba up front together in a 4-3-3 for the second half. Although the formation holds up, Juventus get a third. We score a late consolation but it’s a second defeat in a row.

Some more transfer news now, as I receive loan approaches for Paiva and Harbuzi from Recreativo Huelva and Palermo respectively, which I’m pleased with because they’re both very young players and the game time should do them good. Lazio make a bid of £4.5m for Lundén, but it’s a no from me.

Nikiforenko is another player listed for loan but there probably won’t be any offers for him any time soon as he’s ruled out for 3 months.

It’s transfer deadline day in Italy, and the only approach we receive is Lazio returning to try their luck with a £3.2m bid for Frey, but I’d have to be crazy to sell him.

We finish with a visit from Cagliari, who beat us 2-1 to bring us back down to earth after the win over Juventus last time, so I’m keen to exact revenge and finish this week with a win, which would see us climb at least one place to 7th, above Cagliari on goal difference. Aghahowa is back in for Moukoko on the left wing.

Madeira opens the scoring, and Aghahowa reminds us what we’ve been missing by doubling the score 10 minutes later. Horst Siegl looks to have pulled one back for Cagliari just before half time, but thankfully it’s disallowed. N’Diaye is injured again, so Prutton is on. Selakovic makes it 3 before Cagliari score a goal that counts, and Madeira finishes the job with his second goal on 78. The board say good result.

N’Diaye is out for a week, and Kerr joins him in the treatment room as he’s ruled out for a couple of weeks.

So here’s the table. Lazio still lead the way, and amazingly, Sven Goran Eriksson is yet to win a manager of the month award, with 4/5 of them going to Marcelo Lippi, which is remarkable considering that Juventus have only enjoyed top spot for a total of one week up until now.

Anyway, the board are satisfied with 7th position, but I’ll be hoping for better than that come the end of the season.

So that’s it for another week, join us next time as we meet Bologna for the 4th time, and entertain Sampdoria on Valentine’s Day, which is sure to be anything but romantic after the 7-0 drubbing we gave them last time. Ciao for now!

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