2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Season 2, Part 5 | @cmclassicsquads

Hello, and welcome to the penultimate part of season 2 with the CM01/02 Aces. Last week we had some good wins, taking points off some of the big boys, and we also made it through to the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, and we begin this week with the first leg of that semi-final, against Juventus.

The Old Lady have a trio of injuries, with Pessotto, Zidane and the prolific Fonseca all crocked, which could be good for us. I adopt the extra centre back formation, with Okoronkwo in for N’Diaye. We start brightly, and look to have taken the lead on 41 minutes, only for it to be ruled out after the referee spotted the famous something that he so often sees.

After such a good first half, with 5/7 shots on target, it’s frustrating when we fall behind just 8 minutes into the second half. We try to get back into the match with a few chances, but Deschamps gets the killer second goal 12 minutes from time to ensure we have it all to do in the second leg.

Back to the league, and a trip to Bologna awaits. They held us to a 2-2 draw in our previous league encounter, but we’ve since beaten them 2-1 and 1-0 in the cup quarter final. They’re missing Baggio and Ambrosetti. Selakovic is out for a week, so Lundén starts on the right, and Moukoko comes in in the centre as we revert to the standard 2-3-1-2-2, with N’Diaye returning for Okoronkwo, and I decide to start Samba for Tsigalko, who’s on another one of his dry runs, with no goal in 6 games.

It’s a disastrous start, and Bologna are in front from a corner inside 10 minutes. We equalise 10 minutes later through Madeira, and have more than enough chances to be in front at half time but it’s all-square. The second half is much better, and Aghahowa gives us a deserved lead before Madeira gets his second goal. Samba finishes proceedings on 80 minutes, and it’s a good away win.

Love is in the air, or at least it should be on Valentine’s Day, but something tells me that Sampdoria won’t be showing us much affection today, after we beat them 7-0 at their place. Selakovic is fit again, but I stick with the side that won at Bologna. Sampdoria aren’t playing around, and have 2 massive chances straight away, which we survive and then take the lead through Madeira on 12 minutes. The visitors’ early pressure is rewarded 6 minutes later through Veron, and it’s 1-1 at half time.

I grow more edgy as the second half goes by, and despite a double substitution, it’s one of the starting lineup who fires us back in front as Madeira gets his second before Tsigalko once again reminds us that he needs to be given something to think about every now and again, as he makes it 3-1 and secures the points.

Time for the second leg of our cup semi-final with Juventus. We’ve a mountain to climb after losing the first leg 2-0 at home. They have Zizou back for this one. Many of you will know the tactical guru that is @9798Nikolai, and his 3-6-1 formation has been getting some great results, so I thought I’d try that for this game to see how the Aces perform with it.

Because I’ve no european defensive midfielders, I’m forced to play Hofland there, so hopefully he does ok. Hopefully Duff and Victory can be as industrious as normal, Aghahowa and Selakovic are pushed out wider, and Tsigalko back slightly to leave Madeira up front on his own, with Moukoko pushing up from midfield. Let’s see how this goes…

The early signs are promising, but Zizou puts Juve ahead after half an hour. The goal wakes us up though, and we throw everything but the kitchen sink at them until half time, but Peruzzi is typically playing like a man possessed and saving everything. However, to my delight he goes off injured just before the whistle. Hopefully Rampulla isn’t on quite as inspired form in the second half.

We carry on playing well, and Madeira gets us back on level terms after 5 minutes. I’m beginning to think we’ve a chance of overturning this tie, but Didier Deschamps has other ideas, and Juve lead again on 57. Moukoko makes it 2-2 before Zizou and Madeira both get their second goals, and it finishes 3-3. We were unlucky not to win the match with the amount of chances we had, but the formation looks really promising. Milan took care of Atalanta in the other semi, so they’ll face Juve in the final, but it was a spirited run by my boys.

The tough games keep coming, and it’s a trip to the capital to face Lazio, who have now been dethroned by Juventus at the top of the table. It was 0-0 last time, so hopefully this meeting will see some goals. They are at full strength, and unsurprisingly I stick with the formation and lineup. The hosts score on 20 minutes, but it’s disallowed, and it’s even at the break in terms of chances. All 5 of our shots at goal were on target, so that could bode well for the second half.

There’s nothing more annoying than when you’re dominating a game and battering the opposition, but their keeper is having the game of his life, and that’s definitely the case here today with Luca Marchegiani. We fail to find a breakthrough and it’s another stalemate. Not a bad point though, and the board say it’s a very good result.

Oddly, Hersi has caught the attention of a host of South American clubs, as Vasco da Gama, River Plate, Santos, Gremio and Independiente all make loan offers, which I reject. The same happens with Arjen Robben and Belgian clubs, but as Belgium is not a loaded league, I reject offers from Anderlecht, Brugge, Lommel, Germinal, Mouscron and RWDM.

Our next match is a visit from AC Milan, who are 3rd in the table. The Rossoneri hammered us 4-2 at the San Siro. Victory is suspended, so West starts at left back, N’Diaye in the centre, and Prutton in defensive midfield. Kerr makes the bench after injury.

We look to have got off to the perfect start, scoring on 9 minutes, but when I see the text “Rossi had no chance” I know what’s coming, and it’s chalked off. He also has no chance 5 minutes later, but this one stands and Tsigalko gives us the lead, which we hold onto until half time.

Madeira barely gives the visitors time to settle after the restart and it’s 2-0. Milan have a few chances, but we’re looking solid at the back. even a late Taribo West red card isn’t going to get us down today, and we record a famous 2-0 win, superb according to the board, and we even make a shock defeat headline! Does it get any better than that?

Our penultimate match of this week, is a trip to Naples. Napoli are 9th in the league, and held us to a 1-1 draw last time. I tweak things slightly, with Kerr in for Prutton, and Lundén for Moukoko. It’s not a great first half and we’re behind on 19 minutes through Derby County legend Aljosa Asanovic, who’s strike is one of 10 efforts from Napoli, compared to our single effort.

We waste little time in equalising after the restart, but the hosts are back in front just past the hour. It finishes 2-1, and after such a good recent run of results, it’s a bit of an annoying defeat and the board are quick to inform me of their disappointment.

So to the final game this week, and it’s a home game with Piacenza, who are below us only on goal difference, so this is a chance to put some daylight between us. It was 0-0 when we played them last, so hopefully we can score a few. Victory returns at left back, and West is suspended for 4 matches, so N’Diaye continues at centre back, with Said in the anchor role. I try Kerr in the advanced midfield role, with Lundén making way.

The peppering begins, and we’re 3-0 up in the space of 5 minutes just after half an hour. We end the half with 4/11 shots on target, so although we’ve wasted a few, we’ve scored most of the ones on target, and Kerr is clearly enjoying his marauding role. Selakovic makes it 4-0 not long before the hour, and Piacenza’s dismal day ends with 2 injuries late on.

So, a good win to end the week, and we consolidate 6th spot, and are just a point behind Atalanta, who are perhaps the only surprise package in the top 5, but they still have to play 6 of the other 9 teams in the top 10. Since changing formations, we’ve scored 10 goals in 5 games, conceded 5, kept 3 clean sheets, and had a total of 39/67 shots on target, so things have definitely improved.

It’s crunch time next week. We have 8 games remaining to try and secure european football at the first time of asking, but with Fiorentina, Roma, Inter and Parma among our opponents, it’s not going to be easy.

That’s your lot for this week, see you next time!

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