The last couple of weeks has been a bit surreal. We won promotion from the Portuguese Championship and for a moment I thought that our Season was over, completely forgetting that we’ve still got to face off against the winner of Group A to determine who wins the Division. So in the end, our celebrations didn’t last very long. We’ve still got 1 more match to play before we can claim to have gone the entire 2017/18 season unbeaten, so there’s still work to be done.
We’ve had 2 friendlies against 2 small sides (The biggest teams that would play us right at the end of the season, frustratingly) to prepare us for our match against Cinfães, the winners of Group A. First, we eased past Guadeloupe at home. In a rotated line up, Seidi opened the scoring, Quina bagged goals either side of half time and Kevin put the cherry on top as we ran out 4-0 winners.
For our 2nd friendly I thought it best to play an away match as the play-off will be hosted at a neutral venue. To be specific, we’ll be playing at Liga Nos side Nacional da Madeira’s stadium, Estádio da Madeira. So we travelled to Vitória do Pico and played the exact same side that I plan to play against Cinfães. It was our dress rehearsal, if you like. Anyway, I hope the real match goes that well. Kevin opened the scoring before Sobral got the equaliser, and then Kevin gave us the lead again. Magina, Aires and Hurley all scored to get us another convincing win.
But it’s one thing trouncing teams like Guadeloupe and Vitória do Pico. Trying to take a win against Cinfães will be an entirely different proposition.
The line up that I played in that second friendly, and the line up that I’ve picked today, is as standard and as predictable as it could possibly be. I don’t know what to expect from Cinfães, except for a tough game, but we’ll end the season the only way that feels right. We’ll set up to dominate. We’ll embrace the spirit of my arse hole of a cat one more time. We will of course go Project: Meatloaf.
Goalkeeper – No. 1 – Délcio Borges Azevedo
He has been solid if unspectacular over the last 18 months. Serginho took the gloves for a spell at the start of this season, but eventually Délcio won back his rightful place between the sticks.
Defensive Right Back – No. 13 – Vitor Hugo Alves Miranda
It’s never even crossed my mind to replace him while I’ve been here. Yes, he’s been known to have the odd lapse of judgement, but overall he’s been solid defensively and decent at supporting attacks.
Centre Back – No. 26 – Lassina Touré
A free signing in the Summer, Lassina blossomed this season, even winning his first cap for Burkina Faso against Tunisia. He’s been a solid upgrade on last year’s centre backs.
Centre Back – No. 12 – Jean Olivier Sumo Kingue, AKA Olivier
Take everything I just said about Touré and multiply it by 10. Well, apart from the international cap thing. Olivier has been an outrageously good capture for us. A complete centre back, a danger from set pieces, and one of the unsung stars of my Heróis side.
Defensive Left Back – No. 2 – Mauro Aires Brasil Reis
Another man brought in during my defensive overhaul a year ago, Mauro has been a defensively solid option at left back. He’s been OK going forward but I’ve generally left him out in favour of Diogo Coelho when I’ve wanted us to attack down the wings.
Box to Box Midfielder – No. 17 – Benjamim Pimentel Melo Vicente, AKA Benjamim
When I first saw Benjamim, I described him as a man who ‘would have a good shot at winning the “Most Average Player in the World” award.’ I was dead wrong. He’s one of those players who is far more than the sum of his parts, and he makes the team more than the sum of it’s parts too. He’s the kind of footballer who is often overlooked, but who is so very crucial in every successful team. And that goal against Torreense, eh?
Attacking Central Midfielder – No. 11 – Gonçalo Miguel Reyes Dias, AKA Hurley
I think I’ve already said everything that needs to be said about Hurley. He’s gotten us through so many clutch moments with goals, assists and key passes. He is an excellent footballer and he’ll be in my team next year. Also fun fact, his agent’s name is Hugo. Make of that what you will.
Right Winger – No. 20 – Hugo Fernando Teixeira Bogas, AKA Amonike
I was dead wrong again. When I arrived, I overlooked Amonike. I overlooked him because he isn’t blessed with great pace, or great skill, or even a fantastic end product. He spent most of the first 6 months of my Angrense career warming the bench while Aurélio stunk up the right wing. But just like Benjamim, Amonike as a footballer… Well, he just works. All of his semi-decent qualities just come together to make a fine footballer, and a regular in my side.
Advanced Playmaker – No. 16 – Jeferson Anti Filho, AKA Jeferson Paulista
As I once overheard an enthusiastic Angrense fan say, “Paulista doesn’t know how to score tap-ins, does he?”* And they were right. Of the 4 goals Paulista has scored for us in his short time here, 2 have been free kicks, one has been a volley, and one has been a tidy finish. The man once described as “The new Elano” came in and added genuine quality to our front line, and he made an instant impact.
Left Inside Forward – No. 7 – Pedro Daniel Santos Aguiar, AKA Kevin
Kevin has been an extremely reliable performer since I came in. He started my first season incredibly well, shining a light on Aurélio’s poor form because of his brilliant goal scoring and chance creation. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that if we find ourselves with a genuine goal scoring chance, I’ll be shocked if Kevin hasn’t played a major part in creating it.
Advanced Forward – No. 9 – Cristiano Toste Magina
My first impression of CM9 was that he reminded me of a 16 year old Wayne Rooney. He came deep to collect the ball, jinked and powered past defenders, before trying to score wonder goals from 30+ yards. But Project: Meatloaf made him an entirely different player. With Medeiros, or Antunes, or Hurley, or Paulista playing just behind him, he no longer needed to collect the ball from deep. Instead he became the focal point up top. He became the man who held the ball up and created chances for players around him, the man who got on the end of crosses, be it with his head, feet or chest, and the man who scored a shit tonne of goals. He’s a complete modern centre forward and I’m positive that despite his advancing years, he’s still got time to make it at a much, much higher level.
I struggle for a while to think of what to say to my players before the match. What’s our motivation to win today? If we lose 10-0 to Cinfães, we’re still going up. That makes this match feel on the surface like a meaningless fixture. But we can’t lack motivation now. There’s still silverware to be won. We’re still breaking records. We’re still unbeaten. These are the things that are still to play for. In the end I keep my team talk short and sweet. “Go and make history”, I tell them, before walking out of the changing room, through the tunnel, and out into the dugout.
I suppose I should have seen this coming. If I have a complaint about this season, and I shouldn’t, it’s that too often we’ve failed to make an impact in the first half of games. Too often we don’t start playing until after the break. Today is one of those days. Apart from Joel Silva’s half volley rippling the side netting 10 minutes before half time, nothing really happens.
“One last push.” I say to the team once we’ve all shuffled silently back into the changing room. “One last push and you’ll go down in Angrense History. Vamos Heróis!” The players scream our motto back to me in Unison, and we head back out with our chests puffed out and our heads held high.
It takes less than 2 minutes for Aires to spot Hurley darting onto the left wing and pick him out. Hurley takes the ball and fizzes a cross in towards the near post. And CM9 turns it in. Of course he bloody does.
The goal only spurs Cinfães on though. Less than 5 minutes later Joel Silva gets on the end of an Alves cross and volleys in the equaliser.
The game momentarily seems to have come alive. Before the hour mark, Magina gets in behind the Cinfães defence and shoots from a narrow angle, but Diego Silva saves. The entertainment doesn’t last. The final whistle blows with the scores tied, and our season will carry on for at least another 30 minutes.
I withdraw Hurley before extra time begins. Quite frankly, it’s been a long season and he looks as if he’s scaled Monte Brasil. He’s shattered. After thinking hard, I decide to replace him with Bruce Ávila. If I’m bringing on fresh legs they may as well be on the wing where we can stretch the opposition. Paulista will take up Hurley’s midfield position and Kevin will play behind Magina.
The rotation of positions very nearly pays off instantly, but when Kevin’s excellent through ball is picked up by Magina, the big man uncharacteristically skies his shot.
4 minutes from the break, Bruce Ávila dribbles down the left wing and crosses in for Magina at the near post. CM9 doesn’t mess around this time. He blasts the ball on the volley and it flies into the net. As my coaching staff celebrate, I go into full lockdown mode. We’ll swap to a 4-1-2-3 shape, Seidi will come on for Amonike, and Kevin will take the right wing. We go all out defence.
Or, we should do. But the thing is, if you’re defending a lead in a match like this, the other team should attack. That’s just how it is. That’s how it works. But Cinfães don’t get the memo. They don’t have anything left in the tank. They sit back and we come forward again in the 117th minute. It’s fitting that Hurley’s replacement, Bruce Ávila, is at the heart of it once more, creating chances in his absence. Ávila plays the ball inside for Paulista, whose shot across goal brushes Silva’s fingertips as it flies in.
And that’s it. That’s all of it. Renato Silva has a 2 minute cameo in Kevin’s place, but the game is already won. The league is already won.
We are euphoric. We are record breakers. We are undefeated. We are Champions.
We are Sport Clube Angrense. Vamos fucking Heróis.
*The enthusiastic fan is Sammuthegreat on fm-base.co.uk! Cheers for the constant feedback and support mate!
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