ESV MALAUZAT v 1ST XI
6th NOVEMBER 2011
This was a nice drive out on an autumnal Sunday afternoon - not to Malauzat which is a shame because the road to there takes me through Volvic, but to Marsat in the suburbs of Riom which is where Malauzat play their home matches.
And having seen the 2nd XI throw away 3 points last night when all they had to do was to stand upright to win, and having heard that the 3rd XI despite having done so well in the 1st half against St Maurice have gone down, is this going to be third time lucky or will the pattern be repeated?
The good news is that Gregory is out there warming up, and with n°2 on his back. That can only mean that he is starting in what has been for the last few games for Pionsat the problem position on the left side of defence which is comforting. How he doesn't get picked there every game is a mystery to me.
On the other side of the coin however, despite Alex and Julien having performed heroics in the centre of defence these last few weeks, we have a new central defence pairing out there today. We saw Alex line up in midfield for the 2nd XI last night, and Julien is lining up in midfield here today. There are some bizarre team selections going on.
But then again, it's got nothing to do with me. I'm just a spectator.
And so in the early stages of the game it's a good end-to-end match and Jerome on the right wing is having a good start to the match. He's already setting the defence on fire and here he's won possession about 20 yards out and, seeing the keeper off his line, tries to curl one around him.
The keeper just about stretches to it and manages to get his fingertips on the ball to put it wide of the post. And it's nice to see Cedric following up the shot in case the ball comes loose. That's been one of my criticisms in the past few seasons and it's nice to see the team working on this.
And talking of criticisms, I noticed shortly after this that as Malauzat burst through a half-asleep Pionsat defence (yes, we are back here again, aren't we?) Franck has just hurled a volley of abuse at his defenders from off the touchline. That's another thing that I've been whingeing about - the deathly silence from the bench when things are going wrong for the team. Maybe Franck has started to read my reports as well
We are still a long way away from getting a decisive goal here, and we have to wait until the second half before there's anything noteworthy.
It's a free kick that is floated into the area and during the melee on the goal line with everyone trying to get a foot to the ball Cedric slides over and his hand touches the ball. The referee was well-placed to see it and blows for a free kick.
But there's Nico up on the goal line as well, and Julien following in from midfield. There's definitely a much better shape to the side these days and they are playing much more like a team.
This match has started to degenerate into something other than football these last few minutes as the tension mounts and after a little bit of mischief in midfield, Pionsat come up with the perfect response by taking the lead. And what a beautiful goal this was.
We had Jerome bursting down the right wing as he has done for most of the match. He pulls the whole defence over to him in a desperate attempt to stop him but he beats them all and puts in one of these low, hard crosses right across the face of the goal.
It's out of reach of the goalkeeper but right into the path of Nico who doesn't even need to break his stride to put this one into the net, and if there was a better goal than this, I would like to see it.
And having said that, the second goal 15 minutes later is even better than this.
Gregory breaks up an attack on the edge of his own penalty area after some really hard work in defence and then moves forward with the ball. He found Cedric wide out left with a beautiful pass and Cedric went off like a train down the wing all the way down to the left-hand corner flag.
He puts in another one of those low hard crosses like we have just seen and everyone's eyes focus on Nico who is running down the centre of the field.
But whether Nico stepped over it or whether the ball was too far in front of him I really don't know, but anyway the ball goes out wide to Jerome who is also coming in like a train and Jerome hits it first time back across goal and into the far corner of the net. This was magnificent.
And immediately after this we have a raft of Pionsat substitutions (in French local football the pool of 14 players is allowed to rotate at will, rather like ice hockey). Jerome and Gregory are withdrawn. And this is something that has totally surprised me. Jerome has kept the left side of the Malauzat defence pinned back in their own half for all of the game, and Gregory has stopped the right wingers of Malauzat from getting anywhere near a position of danger.
And as you might expect, Malauzat's left side of defence is getting forward now at will and the right wingers are running rampant down that flank.
Matthieu has to make two first-class saves that draw gasps of admiration from even the Malauzat supporters, who are a noisy bunch, it has to be said, but he can do nothing about this penalty which comes from … you guessed it … the left side of defence.
These totally bizarre substitutions have broken up the team, turned the game on its head, and handed the initiative to Malauzat. If it hadn't been for Matthieu and his two excellent diving saves, we could be looking at a repeat of last night here.
But Pionsat do manage to get the ball back upfield and into the Malauzat net with just seconds to go, but you need only to look at the expression on Jojo's face to see what has happened here. There's a flag up and the referee has disallowed the goal for offside.
Not a decision that met with popular acclaim, that one. I couldn't see too well from where I was standing so I don't know. But it doesn't really matter much at the end of the day. There's barely time to blow the whistle for the restart before the final whistle goes.
Phew! What a match!
We had everything here this afternoon. Two absolutely excellent Pionsat goals, a couple of the most bizarre substitutions I have ever seen that handed the game on a plate to the opposition, a stubborn display by Matthieu in the final 10 minutes to keep his side in the game.
Add onto that some animation from the bench at last (although still nowhere near enough, but it's a start), a Pionsat team that is at last starting to put itself about physically and make the opposition know about it, and some rather unpleasant behaviour from the Malauzat players (kicking the ball directly at the Pionsat supporters from a range of about 2 metres being just part of it) … well, the only thing we didn't have was a streaker. But then it's probably too cold for that.
And man of the weekend? Take your pick.
Gregory showing why he should be in the team from the start every week - nothing got past him on the left flank today
Matthieu - making two excellent saves to keep his side in the game when they were having a bad patch
Julien - who won everything in the air today and why he's not first choice at centre-back is another one of those mysteries as well
Any one of them would have won it on another day but today there was only one person with his name on the trophy. Absolutely tireless down the right wing from start to finish, wearing out the opposition defence throughout the match, making one goal and scoring the other, and how the game went to pieces when he and Gregory went off.
Well done Jerome!
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