Do you want to know what my favourite German word is?
Of course you do. It’s Treppenwitz. It translates literally as Staircase Joke, and it’s the word for that moment when you think of the perfect joke, but a few minutes too late. The moment has passed and the conversation has ended, but bloody hell, it would’ve been good if you’d thought of it at the time. But Treppenwitz also has other applications. It can be the comeback to an insult that comes to you too late, or the showstopper in a huge argument that you lose because you didn’t think of it. And today, just between us, Treppenwitz is the word that you use when you think of the perfect way to hammer a snotty little Portuguese football club into the ground, but too late. They’ve already bored you to death and snatched a point. But today is special. Today we get another chance.
Pinhalnovense have made themselves a special space in my brain, a space usually reserved for Big Brother, the last season of Scrubs, and everybody who plays the drop-in matches in FIFA Pro Clubs. I don’t just want to beat them, I need to. I need this. I need Pinhalnovense fans up and down the land to recoil whenever they hear my name. I need their Manager, João Sousa, to leave under a cloud, and to be booed down the street wherever he goes forever more. I need our handful of travelling fans to shower me with confetti and dub me the King of Portugal.
So what’s the secret formula? What’s old Franjo going to pull from his sleeve and lay on the table?
Bear with me.
For the home tie against Pinhalnovense I should have told us to attack more. We should have been more open and committed more men forward to break through the bus that was parked across the goal line. As the away side, I’m not going to have us attack. I’m going to play our bog standard Meatloaf. Pinhalnovense, being the home side, will do all the adjusting for us. They’ll come out at us as home sides generally do and open themselves up, letting us waltz right through.
It’s beautiful isn’t it? We’re adjusting to their playstyle by not adjusting at all. Of course, they could just do exactly what they did in Hero Creek, in which case we will actually have to adjust. Also, Magina is on the verge of another record. This time he’s about to get a record number of Player of the Match awards
Within 2 minutes of the match kicking off, Amonike gets away down the right and drills a cross in for Antunes, who smashes us ahead.
10 minutes later Pinhalnovense are actually making a game of it though, and a good passing move is capped with a Grou through ball and a tidy Fidalgo finish.
Half way through the first half we’re back ahead, when Benjamim sends Kevin through on the right, and the vice captain runs inside before slotting the ball under the keeper. Back ahead and this is the polar opposite of the last time these teams met.
As the half goes on, we pull away more and more from Pinhalnovense and we start to run rings round them. As we approach the 40 minute mark, Magina chips the ball to Kevin on the right, and he whips a ball from the byline to the far post, where Amonike easily makes it 3-1.
Pinhalnovense, who are actually starting to earn back my respect, soon close the gap though. From a well worked free kick, Pires passes short to Outtara, who dribbles forward to the edge of the area and hammers the ball into the top corner.
At half time I encourage the team. I want more goals. But we don’t fashion another chance until there’s 15 minutes to go, when Olivier drills the ball forward and Magina runs through on goal, but his low drive is blocked by Melo.
A few minutes later, Kevin is brought down on the right wing, just outside the area. Amonike whips a cross in and Lassina Touré guides a good header back across goal to score our 4th and hopefully put the match to bed.
In the dying minutes, Magina puts Hurley through and the attacking midfielder runs powerfully through on goal, but he skies his left footed shot.
When the final whistle goes, I shake Sousa’s hand and smile, before applauding our 2 fans that have made the journey, and then the hundreds of Pinhalnovense fans. I’ll give them that one. That was a great game with some quality football and I’ve gained a great deal of respect for our opposition.
We finish the first phase of the Championship undefeated, with 48 points out of a possible 54. Now there’s just the small matter of the Promotion Stage to deal with.
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