Belmondo March 2018

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FRIDAY March 2nd, 2018

The top of the table clash between FC Twente and FC Groningen ended up with Twente emphatically putting one hand on the trophy with a 3-1 win. I’m sure there are possible futures where Twente don’t win the league, but I’m not sure how they’d play out.

SUNDAY March 4th, 2018

Game day. Feyenoord v N.E.C.

Afobe opened the scoring for them within a few minutes of kickoff. He out-manoeuvred Van der Heijden in the box and stuck it in the far corner. In the 32nd minute, a frustrated Rios gave away a penalty with a clumsy tackle on Fernandes. Toornstra converted and we were two down away from home. It stayed that way until the half, at which point I calmly expressed my frustration by destroying a bench in the changing room. I wrote Feyenoord a check, don’t worry, dear diary.

Santos missed narrowly from an acute angle after a great run in the 59th minute. Feyenoord then had two golden chances with Afobe rebuffed by Smits and a recovered rebound shot bounced off the post and into Jimmy’s hands.

Five minutes later we were back in with a chance after a rampaging Breinburg took a welcomed pass into the box from Sándor Szűcs and scored with a simple shot. In the 89th, it was Breinburg in the action again. He took a pass at the edge of the box and sent it on to a wildly offside jolly Vela. Carlos smashed it home with the lack of pressure that comes from being so offside that you just take an impressive shot anyway. But the flag never went up, so we were level! I can only assume the linesman felt bad for the crappy call against Vela in the Dutch Cup Semifinal.

Naturally, Afobe spoiled the party by running twenty yards with the ball and scoring past Smits with less than a minute left to play in the game. Four losses in a row. A worrisome reminder of last season’s slump. And not a great precursor to the upcoming Europa League match against Groningen.

TUESDAY March 6th, 2018

I just signed a Brazilian midfielder with a lot of potential. Francisco Jackson comes to us from Ceará in Brazil on a free transfer. He’s two-footed, makes good decisions, and the scouts tell me he could be a star in the Eredivisie. A bit of a no-brainer of a signing. It turns out sending a scout to South America is not a bad idea at all.

THURSDAY March 8th, 2018

Game day. FC Groningen v N.E.C. Europa League Second Knockout Round Leg One.

There was zero intimidation factor coming into this game, as Groningen were very familiar foes. Friendly foes, even. Nevertheless, it was a little nerve wracking when they made an immediate attack on our goal and shot narrowly wide. There was a bit of probing from each side after that, but nothing major for half an hour. Then, Breno and Vela made a trademark run up the right and got the ball into Guedioura whose shot was blocked. Szűcs took the rebound and looped it over to Vela, but his shot was into the side netting. Promising. That was it for the half though.

The half started with Breno taking a free kick from near the half way line. He sent it centrally and then was inexplicably left unmarked as he ran forward. The ball was kicked out to him and he had all the time in the world to send a pin point cross into Szűcs who sent the keeper the wrong way with a bit of a head fake and the ball went safely into the net. An away goal! Good news.

I closed things down shortly after that and the only things to happen of note were a collection of yellow cards and an injury to their forward, De Leeuw. A great first leg. Only have to play Ajax before we get a chance to seal the deal.

SATURDAY March 10th, 2018

Vitesse have hired Ruud Kaiser. Hopefully they can fall back into mediocrity now that Zidane has gone. They are way too high on the table at the moment.

SUNDAY March 11th, 2018

Game day. N.E.C. v Ajax.

Douglas Coutinho destroyed us with a great all round display. The two goals also definitely helped. Sylla picked up yet another goal with an assist from Rios, but we were never in the game. Coutinho and Babel made it 2-0 in the first half and the boys were just completely outclassed. I am definitely getting sick of Ajax. Oh well, we host Groningen this week, and the dream is still alive.

THURSDAY March 15th, 2018

Our new youth crop came through today. A local Nijmegen boy has drawn quite a bit of attention from the youth management team. Joey Tissingh is only 15, but he plays in every attacking position, so potentially very useful. One of my coaches says he expects him to be better than anyone currently at the club. I’m not sure if that is high praise or not.

Game Day. N.E.C. v FC Groningen. Europa League Second Knockout Round Second Leg.

The first half produced only two shots on goal, but each of my fullbacks earned yellow cards. Groningen were probing, but apparently nervous. They had two wayward shots, but that was it. Perhaps they were missing the injured Michael de Leeuw who we conveniently injured in the first leg.  At the break I told the boys not to get complacent. Golla and Szűcs were shuffling nervously, so I made sure to keep an eye on them once we got back to playing.

In the 59th minute, van der Vaart sent in a corner that initially appeared to be curving in, but actually swung out out to Guedioura who was lurking just inside the box. He ran at it, jumped at it, and looped a header past the keeper. A two goal cushion – would it be enough?

Yes, yes it would. 1-0 again and we’re off to the wild, unexplored realm of a European quarter final. Potential opponents are Lazio from our group, plus my favorite teams from Spain and England – Valencia and Liverpool.

FRIDAY March 16th, 2018

I watched the draw live, naturally. Well, live on my phone. First name out of the bucket (or whatever it was, my connection was slow) was Leverkusen, currently third in the Bundesliga. Second name was N.E.C. So, that took all the tension out of the event. I switched to some YouTube videos of young Brazilian prospects after that. We might sign some – stay tuned, dear diary.

Valencia and Liverpool will be playing each other, so that reduces my chances of having to eliminate one of them. Also, apparently they make a draw for the semifinals at the same time, so I didn’t get to find out until later that we’ll play Monaco or Schalke after we beat Leverkusen.

SATURDAY March 17th, 2018

It didn’t take Zidane long to give me grief in his role as manager of my “parent” club. He called to complain about the lack of game time his goalkeeper is getting with us. Listen Zizou, you didn’t send him on loan, so you have no idea what you’re talking about. You can have him back at any time. As long as Jimmy Smits doesn’t get injured.

TUESDAY March 20th, 2018

We’ve signed another Brazilian who was without a contract. And this one fits in well here in the Netherlands with the name of Vanderson. It’s his first name though, so that might get confusing for the locals. Vanderson Luan is a centre back. Young and full of promise, like my singing career according to that bastard talent scout back in Ann Arbor. He comes from the Brazilian third division from a team called ABC. I’m not kidding. There’s a team called ABC. They’d fit well in Holland with all the alphabet teams here.

SUNDAY March 25th, 2018

Game day. ADO Den Haag v N.E.C.

The fans are calling for me to change my tactics to get over this slump in the league. The same fans who were following a team who had spent a season in the lower division before I arrived. Those fans. They’re telling me what to do. Also worth noting – we’re in the quarter finals of the Europa League. Fans: can’t live with them, can’t kill them.

Normally I could blame our boring first half to a European hangover, but maybe I can lay it at the feet of a ten-day break. Either way, it was dire. Thankfully my half time energetic encouragement produced some results. We started getting shots on target. Good shots. Sylla and Van der Vaart both forced amazing saves from Den Haag’s keeper, Martin Hansen.

The pattern continued until the start of the 72nd minute, when Den Haag scored a goal from a melee at the edge of the box. Guedioura said it was offside, but I couldn’t tell. We went back to testing their goal keeper and then, suddenly, the game ended. Man of the match? Martin Hansen. There is nothing worse than losing a game in which the opponent’s keeper is awarded a clear man of the match award.

That’s four losses in a row for the league, but who’s counting? The fans, that’s who.

March 31st, 2018

Game day. N.E.C. v VVV.

The two Brazilians were in the squad for the first time in this pretty important game against Va Va Voom. Vanderson lined up next to Golla, while Francisco Jackson sat on the bench. Nagasawa was finally back from injury too and started in the Van der Vaart role.

Ten shots on target in the first half with nothing to show for it. I was very nervous about a repeat of the last game where we were beaten by a keeper. Nagasawa was often outmuscled by their man who goes by the name of Donkers. I won’t complain about anyone being outmuscled by a man called Donkers. It’s only natural.

We took a bit more time with the ball in the second half, which produced fewer shots, but more quality in the probability stakes. It wasn’t one of the quality shots that got us ahead though. It was a ball sent from the sideline by Rios to Diarra outside the box. Diarra took a touch (a bit heavy to be honest) and took two steps before nearly bursting the seams on the ball with a strike that could have started a forest fire. No swerve, just pure pace. The keeper was rooted to the spot. We were finally rewarded.

Christian Santos nearly doubled the lead close to the end of the game, but the shot came off the underside of the crossbar. We didn’t pay for only scoring a single goal, thankfully. 1-0 and we finished the month with a win. Let’s see if we can win our next game – Leverkusen in Germany.

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