Brits Abroad – Part 15: Deficit

Good morning and hello to you. I’m about to head out for my son’s fourth birthday party so if you land on this blog from X (Twitter, in old money) don’t be surprised if this misses the 10.30am post time. It is an annoying loss that these things don’t automatically post anymore. In any event, welcome back to Portugal where the Benfica Brits as nobody is calling them are fighting against the tide. After winning everything, I took the England job and for some reason our form dropped off a bit. So now we’re chasing down Sporting Lisbon and trying to defend everything and then all the same lads will go off to Japan for the World Cup. Wish me luck at the party – we’ve got a journey to go on first.

It goes without saying, all we can do is win our games and hope Sporting’s record is eventually blemished. We’re not as free flowing as we were but a wins a win.

This is more like it, a relatively comfortable afternoon in front of our own fans and a 3-1 win.

Remember we’ve got a 4-3 lead to defend in our attempts to win the European Super Cup. Thankfully in Milan, Inter miss an early spot kick and that seems to galvanise us. Gallen extends our advantage and despite Flachi briefly offering hope, Mr Reliable Tony Thorpe gives us more leeway and who else but Scott Minto seals it. Another trophy in the bag.

This defeat at Boavista is potentially fatal. Just not good.

Much better against Braga, the front two used to be so potent but now it’s a rarity to see them score at the same time.

Off we got Chaves in the cup. I don’t know much about Chaves but I imagine them to be a bit like Wimbledon in the 90s, a tricky place to go to say the least. What do you need to drive a car in Portugal? Cartaxo. Despite being down to 10, Anderton pinches a winner and we avoid a replay or extra time or whatever awful fate awaits you in this cup.

We play them in the league at our place and maybe things are starting to click. We run out 4-1 winners and Sporting must be getting worried.

Bridges at the double as Felgueiras are brushed aside.

Right, time to try and topple Ajax over two legs. Look at this team…

Isn’t Juan Maas the Dutch guy in Ted Lasso? Anyway, 2-0 down at half time it looks like our title defence is over. I tell the lads there’s 135 minutes to go and somehow the motivational words work as Thorpe, Owen and Gallen all net to turn our collective frowns upside down. We’ll see them in Amsterdam for more.

Academica are awkward opponents but not this time. Momentum!

We lost to Boavista in the league but here in the semis of the Taca we race into a 3 goal lead and despite some late resistance/stupidity, we’ve made it to another final.

An awkward trip to Leiria is negotiated with substitute Le Tissier getting the winner. Dig deep.

We arrive in Amsterdam in brilliant form but we’ve got to find something when we go 1-0 down. That would send us out on away goals but thankfully three minutes later Glass levels it and late on Tom Youngs chips Van der Sar to put us through.

As ever, there’s no easy tie.

Two more chapters in the Sporting Lisbon tale. We’ll also face them in the Taca final.

Tony Thorpe do do do do do do Tony Thorpe! He always comes up with something.

We break from the Benfica charge to send the English contingent to Belgium where Gallen fills his boots. I miss him having this form every week.

Three days later and a huge win at Belenenses after going behind. Bigger tests ahead…

Gah. These guys are starting to get on my nerves. It’s all going well when Tricky Trev scores but in two awful second half minutes the tie is turned upside down. Big performance needed in a few weeks.

Portugal’s other big club have fallen behind despite having Denilson, Jardel, Wiltord and er, Bernard Diomede. That man Thorpe bests them all and on we go.

Oh hello! Their first loss of the season.

The gap is down to 2 points.

A first half to remember gets game 29 ticked off. Better news follows as Sporting can only draw with Braga.

We’re going to be very sick of Sporting. Three games, three different competitions, oh and England play Japan in between.

The big business will involve overturning a 2-1 deficit away from home. Youngs gets us off to a great start but Graulund levels. We knew we’d have to score twice to get through and it’s still the case. Gallen comes up with the goods 15 minutes from time and that means extra time. Redknapp nets 60 seconds into 30 extra minutes and we’ve done it!

Oh that’ll be easy then.

Back to league matters and a point here will do nicely.

Four games to go, it’s all in our hands.

The friendly in Japan lets me rotate the squad to rest the Benfica starters. Brian Deane scores the injury time winner which is good to know.

There’s a long standing theory that cup finals can cause mayhem, especially in the home leg. We often see it in Spain and Italy but you only get one chance here and we were pathetic.

Look at the state of this. Definitely a thing. The board are furious and we drop from delighted to very pleased despite all of this success.

Back to business and an edgy win over Uniao.

Oh hello, they were unstoppable against us but flawed here.

Three games to go…

A routine home win puts us on the brink, especially with Braga taking a point off Sporting.

A blemish away at Maritimo, we weren’t great but could have snatched the win and thus the title after a late red card.

A point would probably do unless they go mad.

First though is the small matter of the Champions League final. We have to find a way to beat this:

I need not have worried. The front four are superb and they all net. Sonny Anderson tries his best to deny us on Spanish soil but we’ve done it!

Ah yes.

Right, let’s win the league. It takes a while to get the breakthrough but eventually Rob Page heads in a corner and Bridges all but settles things. Owen wraps it up. Phew. W’ve had to dig deep this season.

The final insult.

Easy in the end. We overcame a slow start but we got there when it matterd.

I’m going to leave the World Cup to next week, I feel it deserves it’s own post. Here’s the squad:

Also a reminder of the horrendous task we have ahead of us

Hopefully next week is worth waiting for!

Thanks for reading, a long post this week. See you next week for more.

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