I don’t know about everyone else out there, but I’m not just a fan of the beautiful game, I play it. 5 nights a week in fact.
I remember last season in the Tehel Cup in Buffalo (the oldest Amateur soccer tournament in the country) and we were up 2-0 going into the second half of our game. The feeling I had going into that second half was the same feeling I had in the second half of this Sevilla game. I remember stepping out onto the pitch, trying not to win, but NOT to lose. We ended up drawing 2-2 after extra time, and losing in penalties 3-2 to be outsted from the tournament.
The same thing tonight happened to Sevilla. A terrible first half from both sides, in reality, saw Sevilla with a 3-1 advantage thanks to 2 gifts from Volkan, the Fener keeper. Lack of defending lead to the first Fener goal, and to a 3rd Sevilla goal before the half ended.
That 3rd goal from Kanouté essentially ended Sevilla’s thoughts about scoring, and they did not see another quality chance the rest of the game.
The second half was where it all went wrong. Sevilla came out and didn’t want to put the nail in the coffin. The game got very chippy and closed in, a far cry from the previous free flowing football in the first half. They then decided to go out and ‘not lose.’ This involves not attempting to play any type of attacking football and be content to clock watch until the whistle sounds at 90 minutes. The entire second half had a strange feeling attached to it, as if I was just waiting for the Fener goal to go in.
Throughout the game, Sevilla’s defending was absolutly terrible. Rafa, the Asocación Sevillista Puerta de America president, and I were chatting at the end of the game, and we both commented on how terrible Sevilla’s defending is from Set Pieces. I can’t remember seeing any team give up so many goals on set pieces. It’s not as if they are letting 25 yard free kick screamers into the corner. Rather, teams are constantly getting behind the back lines and heading in balls whipped in from 40 yards out, especially on the sides of the pitch. Their poor defending led to Fener’s 2nd goal, and essentially lead to their defeat.
Dani Alves also lost it for me after his free kick goal in the 5th minute. He had about 4 or 5 chances to send in free kicks into the box and failed on every one. And, all of Sevilla’s corners sailed over the box and harmlessly across the other side of the field.
Extra time was the same way. I for some reason love the saying ‘Parking the bus’ to describe a totally anti-offensive side/attack. But, in this case, Fenerbahçe parked their 777 oversized Jumbo Jet in the box, and didn’t move it out at all. Every time Sevilla went to attack, they went at the wings, only to encounter 3 defenders on each occasion. When they went down the center, their passes were immediately read and cleared out of harms way.
Then the penalties were atrocious. Kanouté showed why he is class and Drago buried his. Escudé shot it directly at the keeper, Maresca pseudo-shot it directly at the keeper and then Dani Alves stepped up and I finally realized that he really cannot hit the ball well.
My girlfriend always yells at me when I tell her I have a feeling that something is going to happen. I knew Sevilla were going to lose it in penalties, just like I knew they were going to win in penalties in Glasgow last summer.
This team has lost their spark, and I’m not sure where it’s gone. But, we will need to find it in order to see Europe next year.
Here are a small set of game highlights.
Here are the highlights from the penalties.
(If you want to see a recap, go here)