Just 1 more league match to take care of before I’m back on Liechtenstein duty, then. The match in question is away at Bloem Celtic, who beat us twice last season by a combined scoreline of 1-4. Naturally I want my revenge.
We’ll be playing Project: Foxy Mk II, trying to lure Celtic in before hitting them painfully and repeatedly on the counter. Personnel-wise I’ll be making a few changes, firstly because poor Mike Kakuba’s busy schedule for club and country has finally caught up with him and he’s pulled a hamstring, ruling him out for 2-3 weeks.
Sello Japhta’s also dropped as once again I think it’d be appropriate to start a more natural defender at left back. Roscoe and Zulu come in replacing the pair. Because we’re using defensive full backs, we’ll need our wide attackers to provide the width in the side, so Mandla Masango comes out of the side and is replaced by Sony Norde, who’ll play as an out and out winger along with Ryan Moon.
For all my scheming, it takes less than 10 minutes for my plan to start unravelling. Khasipe swings a cross into our box that’s cleared by Sohna, but only as far as Le Roux, who picks out James Mofokeng, in space to the left of goal. Mofokeng receives the ball and simply slots it into the net to give the hosts the lead.
In an odd turn though, before the 20 minute mark Nyathi surges into our half and switches the ball to 18 year old Mofokeng. Sohna nudges the goalscorer off the ball and he responds by hacking the Cameroonian down with both feet like the World’s most ill-equipped lumberjack. Mr Qongco the referee brings out the red card and Bloem are down to 10 men. Soon after, we bring out the Meatloaf and Sello Japhta comes on replacing Siyabonga Zulu as we try to pry our opposition open.
It’s not until 5 minutes before half time that we get our reward. Sinbad picks out Joël Soumahoro cutting in from the left, he plays the ball on for Hicham Aidir on the penalty spot and the Moroccan hits it first time with his left foot, finding the bottom corner and rippling the net.
At half time all I do is offer clichéd words of encouragement: “You can do it”, “Keep going” etc. It certainly works though because 16 seconds after kick off we complete our turnaround when Soumahoro takes on a couple of Bloem players and feeds the ball through for Aidir, who tucks it into the bottom corner of the net.
10 minutes later Bloem go close when Le Roux slides the ball through for Sonopo on the edge of our box, but his powerful shot comes back off the bar. Maybe it’s complacency on my part, but I make no changes to counter the growing threat of the home side and after another 5 minutes I get punished when Phalane’s corner is met by the head of Marupijg at the near post and he loops the ball into the net to equalise.
I do make a couple of changes at this point, bringing Molekwane and Masango on in place of Nkili and the worryingly ineffective Ryan Moon. He’s been really quite poor so far this season. Masango goes on the left and will cut inside to leave space for Japhta as per usual, and Norde goes out onto the right to do the same. I’ve not tried the Haitian out there before and I’m interested to see how he does.
With 10 minutes to play, Soumahoro plays the ball to Norde, who drives forwards unchallenged and shoots viciously from 25 yards, but the ball brushes the top of the bar as it flies narrowly over. That turns out to be the last action of the match.
I suppose a draw is progress, but I’m not entirely happy. I know people say that beating 10 men can be tougher than beating 11 after the 10 men are galvanised by the sending off, but I don’t entirely buy it. As the team with the numerical advantage you should really be able to stretch the opposition, draw them out of position and make your advantage count and we haven’t done that.
Such is my schedule nowadays though, I don’t get to dwell on it for very long. The next day I’m on a plane over to Vaduz to prepare for the visit of Moldova in the European International League. Obviously we’ll be without right winger Simon Kühne after he retired, but luckily winger Pascal Schürpf and versatile left footer Maximilian Göppel are back from injury to fill that void. Wieser and Negele are both included despite minor injuries.
I see no reason to change majorly from our setup for the last 2 matches, so the only change is that Schürpf replaces Kühne on the right. The lineup is Benji Büchel in net, Lucas Eberle, Simone Grippo, Daniel Kaufmann and Roman Spirig across the back, Marcel Büchel, Sandro Wieser and Kuku in midfield and Pascal Schürpf, Guillaume Khous and Yanik Frick at the front.
Liechtenstein v Moldova turns out to be more of an endurance test than a football match. The level of quality might be even lower than in the matches I used to play at Worksop Town. The first half is especially drab, only making the sparse crowd get up from their seats in the 44th minute when Paireli turns Faruk Özkan’s cross against our post. We attempt to control and retain possession to at least try to dominate the shit football. With 25 minutes to go I also bring on 29 year old winger Rony Hanselmann and striker Kevin Hadzipasic for Khous and Frick, just to freshen things up. Unfortunately soon after, Kuku picks up a knock on his ribs, but he plays on.
We really should be behind a minute later though when another Faruk Özkan cross is swung deep into our area and Armas heads it against the bar from point blank range. Nevertheless we survive and we go on the counter as Moldova are really beginning to dominate. Negele also replaces the half-fit Wieser with 10 minutes to go.
In the 90th minute I can actually hear Moldova manager Vedat Damascan tearing his hair out. This awful match is bad enough for me, never mind what it’d be like with the added frustration of hitting the woodwork twice. Just as the thought crosses my mind, Altin slides through Boiciuc in the box, who steadies himself, shoots – And hits the fucking post. I’ll let you decide whether we’re getting this point through tactical genius or sheer luck.
35 seconds into injury time, Moldova win a free kick. It’s the infamous Reabciuk who takes it from 30 yards. He hits it with power… The ball takes a knick off the wall… It wrong-foots Benji Büchel… Hits the far post… Hits Benji’s back… And rolls in.
What can I say? Honestly, tell me because I have no idea where to start. The match was poor, our performance was poor, Moldova were poor but not as poor as us and in the end they got their deserved 3 points. Let’s just leave it at that.
Kuku’s bruised rib doesn’t keep him out for long. 3 days to be precise, but it’s annoying in the sense that our match against Gibraltar is 4 days later and he’s not ready to play.
We host Gibraltar in what is a must win game. We’ve now got 6 points from a possible 9, which admittedly is more than I thought we’d have at this point, but we’ve still got to travel to Montenegro and Moldova and failing to win what is objectively our easiest match would be nothing short of a disaster. We’ll attack from the start as the away tie was cagey and we were quite lucky to get the winning goal. Youngster Yanik Negele gets the nod to start in midfield ahead of Kuku.
It’s a bad start. If anything the first half is even worse than the Moldova game. Nothing of note happens apart from a “Shot” from Gibraltar’s Jake Gosling from 35 yards out on the left. Büchel catches it easily but it’s the visitors’ only shot on target.
The second half starts much better for us. Less than a minute in Marcel Büchel finds Frick with a great through ball and the striker has the whole goal to aim at from 7 yards, but he shoots straight at the keeper Podesta.
With half an hour to go, Hadzipasic and Kuku replace Frick and Khous. The remaining half hour is dull, devoid of creativity and most importantly devoid of goals. The final whistle blows with the scores still deadlocked. We’ve messed up.
I need to sit back down and work out how this International break’s gone so wrong. I can count on 1 finger the amount of decent chances we’ve created and I can count on 0 fingers the amount we’ve converted. Fair enough we’re not really conceding; that’s 3 clean sheets in 4 competitive matches, a new record amount of clean sheets for Liechtenstein, but also only 2 goals scored, which isn’t enough. I’m going back to the drawing board again, I’ll see you in Lansdowne.