It’s that time again. I’ve long since forgotten how my long running one sided feud with former SC Angrense Manager Eduardo Almeida started. All I know is that I’ve got one more chance to beat him. And the way that I beat him is by beating Caldas.
In other monumentally exciting news, Lassina Touré made his international debut in Burkina Faso’s home friendly against Tunisia the other day. He came on at half time when the game was deadlocked at 0-0 but sadly he put in a sub-par performance and Tunisia ran out as 2-1 winners. I’m a bit gutted for him, but the silver lining is that he’s a bloody international footballer now!
I’ve also had to swat away another attempt by Miguel Borba to get me to sign a new contract. I suggested that we instead invest in our youth academy. It was a very subtle dig that I think went over his head. He rejected my counter offer.
Anyway, Caldas. Caldas, Caldas, Caldas. I’ve laid awake for the last few nights thinking, plotting and a few times even scheming. In my 3 attempts at beating Caldas in the past, I have used Project: Meatloaf, and lost, I have used Heróis Original and drawn, and I’ve used Project: Burnie and drawn again. This makes things tricky as I’m pretty sure that there’s nobody else in the Portuguese Championship that we’ve played against and not beaten at some point, well apart from a few teams in this promotion stage group, but we’ve still got another chance against them all. And what concerns me is that against Caldas, none of my systems seem to work.
We’ll line up with a tweaked version of Project: Meatloaf today. Tweaked in the sense that our shape will be a 4-1-2-3 instead of 4-2-3-1. We’ll show them respect, but we’ll still try to control the game and beat them.
We’ve ran into a spot of bad luck too, as both of our usual full backs are suspended for this match. Vitor Miranda and Mauro Aires both picked up a booking against União, taking them both to 5 for the season.
Nevertheless, I’ve seen enough of Coelho to convince me that he’s a solid option, so he’ll jump in on the left. Luciano Serpa is a man who I’ve not really played since signing him in the Summer, as Vitor Miranda is a difficult man to shift from my starting XI when he isn’t hacking down opponents. I don’t have a choice though, so he starts too. Hurley actually returns from his suspension and he’ll come in replacing Kevin, while Paulista starts on the left wing.
And as is becoming commonplace with this band of excellent bastards, we’re still on the verge of some records. Benjamim has entered the race with Amonike and Magina to beat Jordanes Medeiros’ assist record, but Magina leads the way having already equalled it. We’re also level with our club record unbeaten run in all competitions, and avoiding defeat today would set a new one of 16 matches without a loss. Bloody Belenenses.
“Why today?” I ask nobody in particular in the dressing room at half time. “We need to make something happen against these. We need to.” Nobody makes eye contact. That first half was one of our drabbest on record. Absolutely nothing happened. “Go out there, keep the ball, get a foothold in this match, and beat bloody Caldas!” I say assertively, before turning on my heels and marching back to the pitch.
They do seem to take my words to heart. With almost an hour played, Amonike swings a free kick in towards the near post. Benjamim takes it down and has a shot, but Paulo makes the save.
With 15 minutes to go, I throw on Kevin and Renato Silva for Paulista and CM9 in the hopes that their fresh legs will make the difference.
And then it happens – With 5 minutes of normal time to play, Amonike curls a corner to the far post. Renato Silva gets up to nod it back across goal, where Olivier heads it from a tight angle – Off the post. Goal kick.
I stand on the touchline with my hands on the back of my head and my fingers interlocked. I know that in the grand scheme of things, a draw against Caldas is fine. Yes, they’re one of the weaker sides in this group, but I’ll take every point I can get in our hunt for promotion. But I just wanted to finish this before I left. I just wanted to get the win over them. Just once.
In the 92nd minute, David Brás brings the ball forward threateningly for Caldas, and my heart jumps into my mouth. But Touré tackles him. Surely not. Touré plays the ball to Kevin on the right, who dribbles forwards and lays it back to Serpa. Surely not. The ball goes inside for Seidi, then back out for Benjamim, then down the line for Kevin. Surely not. Kevin slides a low cross towards the penalty spot…
I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my career so far, but I’ve also done a lot of things right. The day that sits at the pinnacle of the good decision pyramid in my mind is the 31st of January 2017. It was only a couple of days after I joined Angrense, and it was the day that I parted with £1,500 to secure the signature of Gonçalo Miguel Reyes Dias from Operário Lagoa. My most trusted Lieutenant. The footballer that I swear I will take with me wherever I go next. The man whose nickname was a gentle nod and a wink towards a large lovable character from a TV show that most people look back on with derision.
He only needs one touch. Hurley looks up and strokes the ball into the bottom corner.
As he comes sprinting towards the dugout with his arms held aloft, I feel a familiar wide smile stretch across my face. I hold my hand up for a high 5 as he sprints past, and Hurley does not leave me hanging. He never does.
It gives me great pleasure to draw a line through “Beat Caldas” on my Angrense bucket list. I’m sure that wherever Eduardo is, he couldn’t care less, but it would have left a sour taste in the mouth if I’d left without doing it. And now that that’s out of the way, everything else seems easy. We can beat Camacha away. We can beat anyone. We can win this fucking league.
We’re going classic Project: Meatloaf. Back comes Kevin, who’s now also joined the assist record race, along with Miranda and Aires. Out go Seidi, Serpa and Coelho. Move out of the way Camacha, Os Heróis are coming through. Beep Beep.
Specifically Amonike is coming through when Magina plays the ball into his path 10 minutes in. The winger runs through on goal, but his shot fizzes wide of the far post. Nearly quarter of an hour later, Kevin chips the ball to the far post from the left, and Amonike’s there again, but his header is saved by Jesus.
Half an hour in, he’s in the thick of it again, swinging a corner out to the far post. Kevin gets there and cushions a header down to Cristiano Magina, who shapes his body brilliantly as he, how can I put this, absolutely twats the ball into the top corner on the volley. Beep Beep.
A few minutes later, Camacha’s Camacho drives forward on the ball but shoots just high and wide of our goal, and then just before half time, Paulista breaks from a Camacha corner and plays the ball over the top for Amonike on the left. He gets level with the box and whips a cross in to the far side, where Kevin is waiting to take the ball down and slot it past the keeper. Beep Beep.
I’m a very happy man at half time, and rightly so. Vitor Miranda though is developing an annoying habit of ruining my good time. Within 2 minutes of the restart he pushes Roberto in the box and gives Camacha a penalty.
Luckily, for every Vitor Miranda there’s a Délcio Azevedo. He saves the centrally placed penalty and maintains our 2 goal cushion. I don’t know the exact number of penalties that he’s saved this season but that’s certainly not his first.
With 20 minutes left to play, Neto plays a good ball over our defence for Belo, who cracks a half volley against Azevedo’s bar. We respond by swapping our system to the new Heróis Counter and throwing Seidi on for Hurley.
In the dying minutes, Paulista tries to set up our third. First he tees up CM9 for a long range shot that Jesus saves, and then he plays Amonike through on the left. The winger chips the ball over to the far post and Magina’s close range header clips the bar as it goes over.
It doesn’t matter. The 3 points are ours. The 3 points are always ours.
Beep Beep, Camacha. Beep Beep.
Find me on: