“We can book ourselves a place in the Coupe de la Ligue Semi-Final here lads, So-chaux me what you’ve got.” My solid gold wordplay is greeted with blank faces and a thick, deafening silence. Tough crowd. After a disappointing first half of my maiden Ligue 1 season, I’m looking at this cup run as a chance to blow off the cobwebs and get some confidence back into the side. We’ve already surpassed my expectations somewhat by getting to the quarter finals, but if we can get to the semis or even the final, that’d do wonders for the mood around the place.
Sochaux have had substantial success so far this season and are still very much the division’s overachievers. They line up with a 4-4-2 but with 2 withdrawn central midfielders to really choke the life out of any potential attacks through the middle. We’ll be sticking with Project: Burnie Mk V today but are without the suspended Lamine Fomba as well as McCarthy and Zoun, who are selfishly off representing their nations at an International tournament. Mike Kakuba and Nathan Andre have thankfully shaken off minor injuries sustained over the break and are fit enough for the bench, while Isaac Sohna makes his 2nd competitive Auxerre appearance.
The first half is as cagey and frustrating as you’d expect from 2 teams that pack the middle of the park as much as these. We go closest after 16 minutes when Foden’s free kick is nodded away but only as far as Brahim Ferhat, who chests the ball down and hammers it low, forcing a good save from Gauthier in net. We go a little bit more aggressive after 35 minutes in an attempt to control the game but the next chance is Sochaux’s. Lamboley steps in from the right and whips a cross in and Germain controls the ball well but skews his shot well wide.
On the hour mark the score’s still 0-0. Goujon’s doing his very best to change that though, first firing an admittedly weak shot straight at Gauthier, before trying a cross from the right that’s blocked by Bertrand. The ball bounces out to Abdoulaye Sissako 20 yards out, who takes a touch and slams it past the outstretched glove of the young keeper. We’re off. Also, Sissako’s off the mark for the season, which’ll be great for his confidence.
Bassani comes on replacing Phil Foden almost immediately and with 10 minutes to go we shut up shop completely, with Raf replacing Ferhat. Goujon slots in as a makeshift right midfielder, while Aidir sits up top as a target man. We defend resolutely and nearly even get a 2nd goal when Raf tees off Sissako, who blasts an absolute pile driver towards goal, but Gauthier tips the ball over the bar spectacularly.
That’ll do. A bloody semi final. That’ll definitely do. To make things even better, when the draw’s made we get by far the kindest one we could have: Toulouse FC, who are a great team but are not in the same bracket as PSG or Monaco, who face one another in the other tie.
We get a couple of loan bids in the next few days, firstly for Ruben Aguilar from KV Kortrijk, who clearly didn’t get the memo that our wantaway full back is either moving permanently or staying put.
And then Gent make a loan offer for Billy, but it’s not an enticing one. Besides the fact that they aren’t sure they’d even play him, we’ve got a really packed schedule over the next few weeks and we really need numbers in the squad. Plus, Faouzi Hikem’s inevitably going to be suspended at some point because that’s just how he rolls.
Now back to the League. Marseille are up next at their place and they have actually had quite a disappointing first half of the season themselves and currently occupy 8th position in the table.
I’m taking Hicham and Phil out of the team and throwing in Andre and Bassani in their places, while Xavier Lenogue makes his 100th Auxerre appearance between the sticks.
Within 16 minutes, we’re 0-3 down. I’m serious. 0-3. First, Matheusinho smashes the ball into the top corner under no pressure whatsoever, then Hirving Lozano cuts in from the left and curls the ball into the bottom corner, before doing the exact same thing 5 minutes later, straight after Ferhat has a perfectly good volley saved by Brice Samba at the other end. Things aren’t looking particularly good and they’re getting a lot of joy down the wings, so even though the game’s practically over already, I drop the wing backs back to full backs.
Brahim Ferhat has another couple of decent chances over the next 10 minutes, first shooting wide from 25 yards and then dribbling through the centre and hitting the target from the edge of the box, but Samba saves pretty comfortably. It seems that dropping the full backs has worked to some extent. Either that or Marseille just feel a bit sorry for us and are laying off a bit. In either case, we make it to half time at 0-3, which half an hour before I would’ve bitten your hand off for.
Unfortunately within 2 minutes of the restart, Lozano tees up Matheusinho and he hammers the ball into the top bloody corner again. For fucks sake. That’s that really. Bassani has a few long range shots saved comfortably by Samba and Aidir, Raf and Joël all make cameos, but this has been a disaster. 0-4 it ends and I can’t help but feel partially responsible.
In all fairness, I do think the scoreline flatters the hosts a bit. The quality in their squad (Or the lack of quality in ours) is such that they’ve been able to score from 4 of their 5 shots on target, while our 8 are all saved. Admittedly though most of them were taken from 25 yards out or more. Anyway, a loss is a loss is a loss. I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want a cup run. I just want 3 points in the league.