2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Season 3, Part 5 | @cmclassicsquads

Amici benvenuti! It’s Friday in CM97/98 world and my group of outsiders find themselves 2nd in Serie A and still in the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup. So let’s see what this week brings…

Up first is a trip to France for the 2nd leg of our UEFA Cup 4th round tie with Bordeaux. Hofland has formed a solid partnership with Okoronkwo and he shows that he is just as handy at the opposite end as he heads in from a corner to give us a half time lead. The 2nd half is quiet, but we consolidate our lead and prevent Bordeaux from having a single shot at goal in their own back yard.

Another £250k in the bank and we draw Atletico Madrid in the semis, which won’t be easy.

Mark Kerr gets his 1st cap for Scotland and scores 2 goals, and after recently returning, Julius Aghahowa is out injured again.

Next it’s Vicenza in our Coppa Italia quarter-final 2nd leg. They have the slight advantage being the home side after the 1st leg finished goalless, but we’re on good form. Tsigalko nabs a quick brace and it sees us through to half time. Diego Virille smashes in a long-range effort and Luca Mondini puts in a man of the match performance in the Vicenza goal but it’s not enough and we’re through.

We draw Sampdoria of Serie B in the semis, with Genoa facing Inter in the other tie.

Our final game of the 1st half of the season is home to Atalanta who did well last season, finishing 4th. Samba puts us ahead and Kerr adds another but I’m disappointed to only be 2-0 up at half time after 20 efforts at goal. Every keeper in this league has annoyed me at some point and it’s Alberto Fontana’s turn today as he keeps out 4 more shots in the 2nd half, but our very own Mark Kerr pips him to the man of the match award. That was our 7th clean sheet in 8 games.

We finish the year top of the table and I pick up my 2nd manager of the month award of the season, happy new year indeed!

After a few weeks off for Christmas, back to the start we go, and Fiorentina are up first. They held us to a 1-1 draw at the start of the season but we got revenge with a 4-1 cup win. We dominate the 1st half but Batigol gives them a half time lead against the run of play. Duff is injured before Madeira, fresh back from injury himself equalises and it’s another draw and another super display from the opposition’s keeper. The board say poor result.

Duff is out for a couple of weeks and Hofland gets injured in training and joins him for a week, great.

We beat Parma 2-1 at home but it’ll be tougher away. Goalless 1st halves have been common in this blog and we notch up another. The 2nd half is livelier, Lundén gives us the lead and we seemingly make it 2-0 but it’s disallowed. Claudio Ranieri’s men then think they’ve snatched a point but their celebrations are cut short when they see the linesman’s flag up and we leave with the points.

Lazio were lucky to beat us last time, so I’m hoping we can avenge that undeserved defeat today. It’s a commanding 1st half performance with Madeira putting us in front despite the best efforts of Luca Marchegiani. Victory scores his 3rd goal of the season just past the hour and Lazio reply immediately but it’s ruled out. It finishes 2-0 and after bossing the game, 3 points is no more than we deserve.

The transfer window comes and goes. I was about to bid for Pablo Aimar until I saw he was out injured for 4 months, but there are a couple of outgoings as Said and Bakircioglü are loaned to Udinese and Atalanta respectively.

Playing Bologna after they’ve just beaten Barcelona in the European Super Cup isn’t the best timing but hey ho. It’s level at half time after Kerr cancels out Kallon’s opener with his 6th goal of the season. Tsigalko’s 1st league goal in 5 matches regains us the lead, but we waste numerous chances and are made to pay by Roberto Baggio. That was the 1st time in 3 months that we’ve conceded more than 1 goal in a match.

Our final game this week is the Coppa Italia semi final 1st leg against Sampdoria, who are currently top of Serie B. We start well but have a goal disallowed on 5 minutes. N’Diaye suffers an injury before Tsigalko gives us the lead 3 minutes before half time. The 2nd half is frustrating as we finish the game with 13/18 shots on target but only win 1-0. Hopefully we don’t live to rue those missed chances. Inter beat Genoa 3-0 in the other game.

This will be a big loss, he has been superb.

So that wraps things up for another week. There’s a long way to go yet and the big boys are breathing down our neck, but I’m delighted that we end this episode top of the table. Could all those high ability and potential stats be starting to take effect?

Next week we have a rearranged fixture with Milan, the 2nd leg with Sampdoria and the 1st leg against Atletico Madrid among some winnable league games where we will hopefully get some points on the board as 2nd-placed Juventus face some potentially tricky games. See you next time!

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