Hello and welcome to match week 10! We’ve a bumper episode for you this week, with three rounds of league fixtures to take us up to the halfway point in the league season before we take a mid-season break for this year’s CM Cup. So let’s get into the action and see who will lead the way after 18 games…
Philip and Dave got the show on the road, and it didn’t take long for the league leaders to make their mark through skipper Bakero, whose early goal was followed up by a Julio Salinas brace to make it 3-0 at half time. Dave hadn’t been in attendance for most of the match but joined in the 76th minute, but with his side already 3-0 down, he picked a bad time to join as Beguiristain made it four to cap a dominant display. On the plus side for Dave, Rossi managed a rating of 9/10.
Next up were Andrew and Ross, although the former wasn’t in attendance. He had sent me his tactics though, and he chose to take a leaf out of Pep’s book and not play a striker. This decision looked to be a good one after Bayern got off to a promising start and led through Zickler, but it was the visitors who led at the break as Giggs and Cole clawed United back into it. Bayern had a few chances in the second half, but just as he did in 1999, Solskjaer came off the bench to break Bayern hearts and make it 3-1.
Matt hosted Dean next, and after some poor recent results, Matt changed formations and adopted 5-3-2 attacking. The early signs were good, as Del Piero opened the scoring, but Ronald De Boer was having none of it and he levelled just before the half time whistle. The match remained even up until the 77th minute, when Danny Blind scored an own goal, which was quickly followed by the words “what a knob” by Dean. Padovano quickly added a third, and the points were Matt’s at the end of an entertaining game.
Zak’s Marseille were crowned Coca-Cola Cup champions last week after beating Ross’ Man Utd 2-1 in the final, and Zak would’ve been hoping that there was no hangover in his squad for a game against Nathan’s Dortmund, who haven’t been going too badly of late. This match turned out to be a goal fest, and from being 3-1 down at half time, Dortmund battled back with 3 second half goals to stun Zak and I’OM and turn the match on its head to win 4-3.
Last in the first round of games were myself and Rob, who beat me 2-1 last time so I was determined to get even. My side started the brighter and despite having the lion’s share of chances, it was Rob who took the lead, but Raul replied on the stroke of half time. On the hour I was relieved as Rob took Savicevic off, and thought I’d made an inspired change myself as Morientes scored, but it was ruled out. I was regretting telling Rob to play Milojevic the other week, but Morientes and Karembeu cheered me up late on.
So onto the second round of games, and I was straight back on again for a trip to Amsterdam to face Dean, who was looking to bounce back after his defeat to Matt. Basically, Dean battered me for the entire match, but Santi Cañizares was having a blinder. Dean brought on “crap” Kluivert near the end and I thought that it was him who scored the last minute winner, but it turned out to be Overmars. Although it’s a disappointing way to lose, I can have no complaints.
Nathan and Matt were next on, and were both hoping to rack up a second successive victory after their earlier wins. Juve took an early 2-0 lead, but Dortmund piled on the pressure up to half time, with 7 shots on target, but Peruzzi was on inspired form as always. He did turn from villain to hero for Dortmund however, as he scored an own goal on 80, but despite a red card for Carrera, Juve managed to hold on for the remaining 8 minutes.
Next was a top-of-the-table clash between Ross and Philip. A win for Ross would put him level with Philip on points, while a win for Philip would increase his lead to 6 points. The first half was fairly even, but it was Barca who led at the break after a Pinilla goal. In the 2nd half, United had Schmeichel to thank for keeping it at 1-0, but could only manage a single shot on target and it ended 1-0 to the Spaniards.
Another top-four clash followed, as Dave welcomed Zak to the San Siro. Dave thought he’d struck the first blow on 14, but the ref had other ideas. Panucci saw red on 39, and it proved costly as Casoni gave Marseille the lead following the resultant free kick. Rudi Völler made it 2-0 early in the 2nd half, which prompted Dave to have a shuffle, and it did work to an extent as Papin pulled one back with 11 minutes left, but even with Raducioiu on the field, Milan couldn’t find an equaliser.
Next up was a relegation 6-pointer in Serbia, as Rob welcomed Andrew. After a relatively quiet first half an hour, the game sprung to life, with 3 shots on target from each team, and 3 goals in the space of 9 minutes, including a brace from Andrew’s “useless” FRL, Paulo Sergio. Sadly the 2nd half saw much less action, with neither team managing to register a single shot on target, and Andrew recorded his first win with his new striker-less formation.
Zak was named manager of the month for December, which means it’s still only him and Philip who have won the award since the start of the season.
To the last lot of games, and Rob was straight back on against Philip in a top vs bottom clash. Not many people would have given Rob a prayer in this one, but they resisted 18 Barca first half shots despite only managing a single off-target effort themselves. The Barca dominance continued in the 2nd half, but Zvonko Milojevic was having the game of his life, and on 77 minutes, Guardiola played a suicidal back pass and Momcilovic capitalised to leave us all open-mouthed as Red Star grabbed an unlikely win (and yes, Milojevic was man of the match).
One of many possible Louis Van Gaal derbies was next, with Andrew’s Bayern taking on Dean’s Ajax. Dean was delighted to have Litmanen back, and also handed a start to Kluivert in place of Finidi. Ronald De Boer got the only goal of a 1st half in which they had a total of 7 shots, while Bayern had a clean sweep of zeros for their half time stats. The shots were evenly split between the teams in the 2nd half, but there were no more goals, and Dean got his 2nd win of the night.
Matt was looking to complete a clean sweep of three wins against Zak, but his side didn’t get off to the ideal start, and were reduced to 10 men on 24 minutes as Pessotto was dismissed. It was goalless at the break, with Marseille had shaded the 1st half in terms of chances. Zak had a penalty shout at the start of the 2nd half, but it wasn’t given, and Juve took the lead through Paulo Sousa on the hour. Zak gave Kirkwood his debut on 77, but the youngster failed to make much of an impact as his side fell to defeat.
The penultimate game was the Man on the post derby between Dave and Ross. Dave was communicating via the meeting chat, and his words were “if it’s broken, don’t fix it” so I left his team as was, and Ross put a less than fully-fit Roy Keane back into his side, insisting that anger would fuel him. Teddy Sheringham also returned, and gave them the lead on 20 minutes. Milan didn’t have a shot on target in the first half, but Brian Laudrup made up for it just before the hour and secured a point for his side as it finished all-square at the final whistle.
We finished off the evening with another bottom-of-the-table clash between myself and Nathan. Mijatovic gave me an early lead, but Dortmund started to fight back and were unlucky not to be on level terms at half time. I thought it was 2-0 on 55 minutes, but for the 2nd time that evening I had a goal disallowed. A couple of chances either way followed, but there were no more goals and it finished 1-0, but it could have been more were it not for Dortmund’s man of the match, Stefan Klos.
So after 15 more matches, Philip remains top, and has a nice 5-point cushion above Ross, who has swapped places with Zak. Dean and Matt have both climbed a place at the expense of Dave, who’s dropped 2. The bottom 4 remain the same, but I’ve levelled with Nathan, and have put a bit more distance between myself and Andrew, who remains 2 points ahead of Rob. The only zero left in the table is Andrew’s drawn column, so I apologise to any readers with OCD.
Don’t forget, you can catch this week’s action on video by clicking here
The FA Cup third round draw was also made, and there were just two all-premier clashes, with Matt hosting Dean, and myself taking on Ross. All of us managed to avoid the old firm duo of Rangers and a Celtic, although I’m sure Matt, Dean, myself and Ross would probably have welcomed facing either.
So there we go, we’re halfway through! Where did the time go? We’ll take a break now for the CM Cup for a couple of weeks, but we’ll be back for the second half of the season to see whether Philip can hold onto top spot. Good luck to any of our readers who are participating in the CM Cup, and I’ll see you soon!