On Saturday November 3rd we played game nº3 of the Winter 2007-08 Lachine indoor league, vs. El Ahly.
Having missed the first 2 games because of my holiday, I can’t provide you with too many details on those (although some of you might have gotten the mini-game reports from Kevin). Suffice to say that we beat Westview 9-0 on game 1, and won 2-0 against J.S.S. on game 2. Our season had started pretty well therefore: 6 points, no goals conceded.
Our opponents for the day (according to Bryan’s schedule) were El Ahly but I am not sure it was the team we effectively played, because the name the referee told me was different (something like Caffè Sorrento or something, which makes sense because there were a bunch of Italians on their roster). Either way, I’ll refer to our opponents as El Ahly from this point onwards.
Attendance-wise, and contrary to our early season expctations, MISN was having a few problems. With the announced long-term absences of Can (Abitibi), Ludo (France), Tevin (injd), and Alex (injd), we also had Danny suddenly turn into a substitute player because of his work. Also, Zaid was off to Toronto this week-end, and Güven and Bruno had their Men’s B intramural final to play at McGill. To top it off, two of our regular strikers (Saad and Jonny) have been M.I.A. since the league started, so needless to say we didn’t have a whole lot of players today.
Fortunately, the returns of Marco (yours truly) from holiday and Nafee to active duty gave the team a little boost.
|1) Absent long-term:||Can, Ludo|
|2) Injured long-term:||Tevin, Alex|
|3) N/A this week:||Zaid, Danny, Bruno, Güven, Jonny, Saad|
Here was our line-up:
We started the game with only 1 sub because Imad was running a little late. Fortunately, our opponents didn’t apply a lot of pressure on us in the early beginning, and the match set out to turn into a fairly balanced battle. Unfortunately, those are the times which lady luck usually chooses to play some tricks on us, or when that isn’t the case, we create our own stupid mistakes in defense.
With MISN in possession, our defense was forced to retreat back to the goal line because of the opposing pressure: attempting to clear space for a pass or a dribble, one of our defenders lost the ball close to the goal line, allowing the pressuring El Ahly forward to shoot from point-blank range, and surprise Jan on the first post. 0-1. Definitely not the way to start.
We resumed our efforts towards approaching the offensive zone, because up until that point we had had most of the ball possession: it was simply of matter to create more shooting chances. From a Nafee kick-in from the left, the ball was passed to Marco about 15 yards from the goal, and our Italian defender armed the shot, but it was narrowly wide from the left post.
Minutes later, we managed to obtain the equalizer. Pushing forward on the left, as Santi and Bardia combined to feed the ball inside the box, an opposing defender went in for the challenge with two feet forward, and tackles in Lachine are forbidden: penalty kick! Nafee duly transformed, sending the keeper wrong way. 1-1.
Minutes later, we obtained a free-kick from 15m: Bardia attempted a bending shot toward the right post, but it was wide. Nevertheless, we were playing well during this portion of the game. Santi and Nafee were constantly pushing up on the wings, creating space. What we lacked were essentially shooting attempts , but we had the momentum back so it was time to exploit it!
Following a through ball, the ball was passed from Bardia to Santi, who then slid it forward on the left side towards Nafee. Our Moroccan winger tried to put it back across, but an El Ahly defender intercepted, but alas for him fooled his own keeper and the ball rolled into the net! 2-1 MISN.
Our lead was short-lived however: a few minutes before the end of the half, El Ahly pushed forward on our right wing. We did not apply enough pressure on the ball bearer, allowing him to look up for options, operate a backpass towards the center, and the ensuing low shot (not even too powerful) went inside the bottom left corner of Jan’s net. 2-2.
As the ref called half-time, we were frustrated at our lack of productivity. We had most of the possession, were playing better than our opponents, yet somehow were being forced to a tied game. Essentially, we needed to take more shots on net, and increase the quickness of our transitions in order to put our strikers into a good position.
In the 2nd half, MISN exerted a big domination on the game. Our opponents barely approached our net for the first 10 minutes, yet despite that fact, we still were having considerable trouble in creating scoring opportunities. In particular, our biggest problem was that we kept giving away possession too easily. It’s not that we didn’t have possession: but whenever we lost it, it was due to a hasty pass or inaccurate flick.
Still, one of the qualities that kept our opponents on their toes was the danger we created on fast counter-attacks. On one of these turn-overs, the ball was fed forward from Santi to Marco, whoe eluded the defender’s challenge to obtain a 3 on 2 situation. Going deep, our Italian wing-back had a good passing option to his left (with Santi making a run towards the post) but stumbled on his dribble, forcing him to take an early shot narrowly wide. A good chance wasted.
Minutes later, we produced another almost-lethal turnover: back in our defensive zone, the ball transitioned from Eric to Marco, who then waited for Eric to make run deep and then scooped the ball over his marker to send our full-back in the clear. Eric made a run towards the net on the right wing, but his final effort was wide over the bar! Another good chance!
Later, some more bad luck: Nafee got the ball on the left wing with plenty of space, and armed a left-footed shot towards the far post. The El Ahly keeper managed to get a hand to it, however the shot had enough power and it seemed to be rolling in… but it hit the post instead and bounced wide!! Aaargh!!
After so many missed chances, our opponents’ confidence continued to grow. Eventually, one of the their long balls forward filtered to one of their strikers, giving El Ahly their first real chance of the half. With Jan beaten, their first point-blank effort slammed onto the woodwork, but rebounded back. It was followed by yet another attempt, but this time the hard shot was parried away by Jan. Eventually, the ball landed to another opposing player but our defense FINALLY managed to clear it out of danger.
It was only the prelude to the final drama though: 2 minutes before full-time, a corner-kick for El Ahly on the left wing was passed back to a midfielder, who then passed back to a defender: the one-time shot from 20m (once again, with limited power) rolled into the bottom left corner, because our defense passively allowed the ball to filter through a forest of legs, preventing Jan from seeing the shot. 2-3.
We managed to obtain a last desperate attempt on goal, following a defensive clearance: the ball bounced to Kevin who let a powerful shot rip from 20m. The ball’s trajectory was well on its way, but was eventually stopped by the defense, and on the ensuing rebound Bardia couldn’t connect. The ref called full time shortly after to send MISN into despair, and give our team its first defeat of the season.
2-3 final score
We have to face the facts boys: we played a poor game. A lot of ball possession means nothing if the final pass is gifted to the opposition, or if we can’t seem to find a way to arm our shots in the final third. The team we played against was not super strong, so there is no doubt we definitely played sub par today. Yes, having only 2 subs doesn’t help but even so, our efforts today could have been much better.
I think there are essentially 2 things we need to be working on:
1) Better accuracy with passing
Looking back at the game, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we lost 2/3 of our ball possession today due to bad passes. It’s one thing when it’s the defender’s skill that intercepts a well-weighted ball, but it’s another the original pass is weak/off the mark to begin with. This was especially true today with one-time attempts at 1-2 passes: sometimes it’s better to control the ball and think: where is the best direction to pass to? Who’s unmarked? Can the intended recipient get to the ball?
2) Better efficiency with set pieces:
We have great free kick specialists in the team (Jon, Bardia, Nafee, Marco) but somehow, our set pieces opportunities rarely turn into scoring chances. So let’s just stop for a second, and let me tell you what *I* generally expect when I’m about to take a free-kick/kick-in/corner-kick inside the area: movement. Movement = creation of space, and that’s where my pass is gonna go. If you’re just standing there, it’s pointless to cross the ball to you because usually an opposing defender will right on your ass, ready to intercept. You need to move and create space, even if it’s just making a run from left to right, because you’re bound to be dragging a defender with you (and that’s good, because that in turn is going to create space for a teammate behind you).
Finally, the obvious: no shots = no goals: we got to be shooting more, including from mid-range. Our strikers all have accurate shots, and so do most of our defenders: let’s use it.
Cya next week.
Posted in MISN Impossible |