Hello happy champers, and welcome to your weekly fix of the blog squad battle that is CLM97/98. Nathan’s Dortmund ‘97 have a tricky FA Cup replay against Hamilton, but other than that, it’s league action all the way as the chasing pack look to close the gap on Philip and his relentless Barcelona ‘92…
Kicking off proceedings were Deano and Dave. Papin and Lentini put Milan 2-0 up in no time, but Ajax hit back through their two Fins (kind of). Winston Bogarde had been doing a sterling job as Dean’s makeshift keeper recently, but a late own goal from the man who would go on to become Chelsea’s most expensive benchwarmer ever, gifted Dave all three points.
Rob left his Red Star side in the hands of his assistant manager, who’s name I do not know, but I suspect ends in ‘vic’, as they travelled to Nathan’s Dortmund. After both teams scored inside 6 minutes, we thought we were in for a goalfest, but this turned out not to be the case. There was one more goal though, as Jovan Kirovski got the yellow wall all excited with a late winner.
Matt had lost both of his previous league meetings with Philip 2-0, but with home advantage for this one, maybe this was Matt’s chance to get his first victory against the Catalan table-toppers. It was a close match stats-wise, but Philip’s Bulgarian beast got the decisive goal just inside half an hour to give his side the lead, which they held onto for the rest of the match, and maintained their healthy lead at the summit.
Like Rob, Zak and Ross also received crosses on my register for not attending, so this was a battle of the assistant managers. Zak was dealt a blow after just 2 minutes as Barthez was given his marching orders. Beckham despatched the penalty to give Ross the lead, and the baby-faced assassin doubled United’s advantage early in the 2nd half. Boksic replied before Marseille lost another player as Ferreri went out with a whimper, just like his team.
I was hoping that my merengues would continue their recent good form against Andrew’s fraudulent Bavarians, and all was well when Suker gave me the lead. However, after some wasteful finishing from my attack, and some patience with his new narrow formation, Andrew was rewarded through an obscene Elber finish, which was followed by some similarly-obscene language from me.
And just like that, we’re into the 2nd round of league games, starting with Philip vs Zak. Being 6 years younger has given Hristo Stoichkov and his strike partner, Julio Salinas a new lease of life, and they wasted little time in putting Barca 3-0 up in half an hour. The Perminator did offer I’OM some hope just before half time, but they were unable to build on it, and Amor put the final nail in the coffin.
Up next were Andrew and Matt, who were both looking for their first win of the evening. Giovane Elber was on the score sheet for Bayern for the 2nd game running, but the Old Lady were a wounded animal after their defeat to Barcelona, and they responded by well and truly extinguishing any hopes that Andrew may have had of building on the point he took off me.
The best I’d managed against Dave until now was a 1-1 draw, and he’d also handed me a few drubbings, so I wasn’t particularly confident for my trip to the San Siro. He outplayed me in every department and had twice as many as me of everything stats-wise, but somehow I won 2-0. I largely had my defence to thank, and in particular, man of the match Fernando Hierro, who had a perfect 10. Sorry Dave!
An impressive crowd of just over 88,000 watched managerless Red Star welcome keeperless Ajax. It was a somewhat predictable affair, with the home side managing just a single shot at goal, compared to Ajax’s 22. But of those 22 shots, only 3 found the net, all courtesy of Marc Overmars, as he stuck a middle finger up to all the FRL haters out there.
Time for a little FA Cup intermission now, as Nathan faced Hamilton in a 3rd round replay. It looked like 1-0 was going to be enough after Riedle’s goal just before the hour, but a late Hamilton equaliser took the game to extra time and eventually penalties, where just like at Euro 96, Andy Möller finished the job.
There was no rest for the wicked though, and Nathan was straight back in action as he faced Dean. Heiko Herrlich got the away crowd going with a very early strike, but Deano muttered Beetlejuice 3 times under his breath, and just like that, he smashed in a 6-minute hat trick. Finidi added a brace around the half hour mark, but Beetlejuice’s night wasn’t finished, and he made it 6 in the last minute.
Kicking off the final round of games was the 3rd El Clasico of the season. Stoichkov got his 4th goal in 3 games, but Suker and a Pep (with hair) own goal turned the game on its head, much to my delight. As the minutes ticked on, Barca turned up the pressure, and just as I thought I’d condemned Philip to his 3rd defeat, Witschge headed in from a corner to snatch a point. The match was as even as you could get, so a draw was probably fair in the end.
With Philip slipping up, it was Ross’ (or rather Steve McLaren’s) chance to close the gap, but he faced a tricky game against Matt’s Juve. Ross needn’t have worried though, as the Wally with the Brolly oversaw an emphatic display, with Cole and Solskjaer providing the goals. United could even afford for Beckham to miss a penalty. Ravanelli got a late consolation for Juve, but by then the damage was done.
The last 2 meetings between Dave and Andrew have thrown up a total of 11 goals, but on this occasion there was nothing to see, other than injuries to a couple of Dave’s key men. Andrew would have been more pleased with his point, especially with his side failing to register a shot on target, while Dave will feel aggrieved to have squandered 12 efforts at goal, mainly due to Oliver Kahn putting in a man of the match performance in the Bayern goal.
The game between Rob and Zak more than made up for the quiet affair at the San Siro. This match had absolutely everything, 6 goals, an injury, a missed penalty and unbelievably, another sending off for Barthez. The only thing that was missing from this match was… managers! Rob will no doubt be thrilled, but I’m sure the first thing Zak will want to do when he returns to the Stade Velodrome is have words with his angry little bald keeper.
Finishing off the action was the league game between Nathan and Ross, which was rescheduled due to Nathan’s cup replay. Ross has experimented with a few strike pairings so far, but Cole and Solskjaer seem to have clicked, and they got another 3 goals between them. Nathan won’t be pleased with the result, but will be happy that Herrlich has found form and netted twice in 2 games, anything to avoid playing Chapuisat!
So this is how the table is looking after another week of shenanigans, and Philip’s draw with me allowed Ross to cut his lead from 8 points to 6, Zak has dropped two places, Deano has climbed one, Dave is down one, and the bottom 5 are all non-movers (cue bbc radio one top 40 chart jingle).
So we’re done for another week, thank you for joining us, and we’ll be back same time next week, with more league action as well as the next round of the FA Cup, where Ross visits Celtic, Philip travels to Dumbarton, Nathan is at Dundee, Kilmarnock host Andrew, Zak and Deano face each other, and Dave welcomes Rangers. Now it’s over to Trevor McDonald for the ITN News at 10…