The above quote came from Mourinho in an interview that he did with Inter Channel. I have to say that I starting to agree with him. I am becoming a big fan of the diminutive Netherlander. He has an uncompromising, unrelenting, direct style of attack that I can really get behind. I have come a long way in my regard for The Sneijder. I hope he doesn’t mess it up.
The games are coming fast and furious now. We have Bologna coming up fast, in-between Champion League ties – unlike our Russian opponents who managed to get their league game postponed.
And they will be grateful for the extra rest. The game on Wednesday was played at pretty frantic pace in the second half, where all the action was. Neither side were really interested in going forward early as both were playing it safe as can be. After half time, both sides started to open up a little bit. We had several chances but were just not able to put anything into the net until Milito but in a wonderfully placed shot that was passed forward from Sneijder after he carried the ball upfield.
Sneijder had been bringing the ball to the forwards in every conceivable way, from long passes, short passes and just trucking the thing up the middle. He puts an incredible amount of pressure on the other team and his doggedness at attack is nicely balanced by Cambiasso who had been a terrier all night in the midfield. These two are now the foundation of the midfield. If we can find two more real midfielders to complement these bald headed pressure cookers, we could be in serious business…
Stats Home Team First
Shots (on Goal): 25(9) 10(3)
Fouls: 9 22
Corner Kicks: 9 4
Offsides: 4 0
Time of Possession: 56% 44%
Yellow Cards: 1 2
Saves: 3 8
The Pagelle is taking a break this game too. I just can’t dedicate the time to doing it that I want, but it goes like this: Cesar didn’t mess up a gimme like he did at Roma and we get a clean sheet. Coincidence? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
But like at Roma we had a real problem at putting the ball into the net and the answer to why isn’t really hard to figure out. All our forwards spend a lot of time and effort tracking back – unlike a lot of other systems – and pressuring the opposition defence. You run ten 50 meter sprints up and down a field while defending and attacking in a half of football and it tires you out. By the time you make it 50 games of this and finally get into shooting range and your leg has to be just dead. This in a way makes what they do that much more amazing but also there has to be fatigue and muscle weariness. Let us not forget that Milito and Eto’o are no spring chickens.
But on the positive side the hunger to win was really present. Like against Chelsea, there was a real desire to get past that team and progress. There was a manager – I don’t remember who and I am paraphrasing quite a bit – that said that you can draw up the perfect formations and put the perfect combination of players on the field but it won’t mean a damn thing if they don’t want to play for you. We don’t have that problem with the majority of our players. They all want to play – even the ones who aren’t working out so well for us – and they all want to win. That desire is there and it was in evidence in spades.
But the thing that was really appreciative of was that there was intelligence to the team. Look, Moscow isn’t the most skilled team, but they wanted to win too. They were eager to fight for the game and had all the athleticism that you could honestly want. The difference between the two teams was that we weren’t ever, ever, ever, ever going to lose our judgment and destroy all the work we put into this campaign. We weren’t ever, ever, ever, ever going to lose our shape and overreach ourselves to get that goal. Moscow did so on several occasions and were saved only by some brilliant goalkeeping. But they lost the game plan once too often – really twice as Pandev had a goal snatched out of his hand in as heartbreaking a fashion as possible, poor guy.
So we really turned the heat up in the second half, which was nice to see. After the Roma game, I was thinking that we played too many too often.
We still might have. Bologna isn’t a pushover – there really aren’t any from here on in – in any of the 3 competitions we are still active in. Bologna isn’t a pushover but the away tie in the Champions League game coming up and all the suspensions are going to force us to have to rotate some of the troops. If Santon is available, he could solve a lot of the problems that we might have in the defence, along with Cordoba and maybe Matrix. I would expect to see Mariga and Quaresma in action giving some in the midfield a deserved rest. Also, if the fates are kind, Mario Freaking Balotelli could be back and helping out after what I can only hope is substantial personal growth – but it’s probably his agent trying to show a potential buyer that Mario isn’t the asshole that he’s been showing himself to be. I don’t remember the agent’s name off the top of my head but he’s one of the slimy ones in the profession and he’s already had to go on record to say that he’s not trying to persuade Mario to leave – since it was the first question he was asked when he revealed himself, like Satan, to the media - his reputation was so well known.
So the happiness of the first tie win is fading as we are back in business in just a few short days. I hope that we can successfully rotate the troops so that we can continue our good fortune in Moscow.