After a good warm up and some nice photos taken by Nico the Raiders took the pitch in their traditional 4-4-2 but kind of a 4-5-1 formation. Center backs were Jerry and Jamie. Ohashi and Nano started at the fullback position. Daniel in his last match played center mid with Mic and they had Nicolas on their right and Edwin on their left. Just in from of the center mid was Andy and in front of him was Luke playing as the false nine.
Some stuff happened in the first 45 minutes. Not much stuff, but just some. Jamie made another great pass to their striker (he’s good for one of those a game) which he recovered nicely himself (while shouting at Ohashi) before the guy could get a clean look on goal.
Other highlights of the first 45 minutes included: two great saves by Mirko, great singing from the supporters on the sideline (kind of), a few tricks from Nicolas resulting in crosses, and a classic Daniel Vo slide tackle (not in the first half but needed to be noted).
The real match began around the 45-50th minute when the number 10 came on the pitch at right back. Traditionally a winger or striker, coach called on ‘the ten’ to sturdy up the back line and ensure a clean sheet. After having tra da thrown in his face the previous week, ‘the ten’ desperately needed to put in a good shift in order to save face with his teammates who were slowly losing respect for him.
Twenty minutes at right back went by without a scare, maybe a few cheeky fouls, couple dives (winky face ;)), and a few mistimed headers, but nothing over the top and all around solid play from him there. After about 15 minutes the manager pulled him off with bigger plans in mind…
‘The ten’ traditionally is the best player on the pitch for any team. And for the final fifteen minutes of this match we truly saw that. Consistent linking up with the other center forward saw chance after chance as the raiders seamlessly penetrated the Artists gaping back line. Following the coaches instructions (like a good Raider) he stayed high on the opponents deepest defender, stretching the pitch and allowing the center middies to have more room to operate. Finally the Raiders earned a corner after Sipho’s fifth great run down the left wing. ‘The ten’ stood right on top of the keeper, distracting the central defense and referee. The corner came in over the top of everyone where Jeroen was able to latch on to it and power it through the goalkeepers hands into the back of the net. 1-0 Raiders.
What happened next will go down in history as the most unnatural occurrence in the history of Vietnam. Geologically Vietnam is not located near the edge of a plate. So in pate-tectonic theory they shouldn’t see or feel many earthquakes ever. Friday night, after Andy was played through beautifully by someone, I forget exactly who, we saw one of the rarest episodes of plate-tectonic shifting. As Andy calmly beat his man pulling the ball back with a beautiful rollover he played a gem of a pass across the box to ‘the ten’. Just as the number ten set to spank the ball home from 7 yards out the ground shifted. It shook just enough to pop the ball up and ‘the ten’ mishit it wildly high and over the bar. Nobody to fault here but mother nature herself, she just didn’t want him to score on that Friday night.
His teammates for the night attempted to cheer him on and keep his morale high (thanks guys) but deep down he knew this was out of his control, the Gods wanted him to miss. His teammates who didn’t dress for the game, however, couldn’t have been less supportive, jeering him from the sidelines as if they were supporters of the other team trying to get in the head of the opponents best player. Perhaps they were bitter for not getting selected for that match, or perhaps they are just mean spirited tra da chuckers who had a bit too much to drink that day. Either way, they are still teammates and we need to pray for their souls.
The next five minutes were what was to be expected from ‘the ten’. Pure bliss. He pinched a Mirko goal kick first time perfectly to Andy’s feet. Andy took one touch and curled a beautiful shot right around the keeper for the Raiders second goal.
2-0 was the final. Everyone put in a great shift today especially the man of the match, Mirko, who had 3-4 amazing saves making up for the zero saves he had to make the previous week. Jerry and Jamie kept the score sheet clean at the back alongside the help of Daniel Vo, Pete, Nano, and Ohashi who all put in great shifts at fullback.
Daniel German and Mic held down center of the park for most of the game while Nicolas and Scott shared time at right wing and both created chances on their own while providing solid simple passing and movement. Edwin got us started on the left wing with good tracking and great crosses then Sipho finished the job. The striker job was done by committee this week with Ben, Aron, ‘the ten’, and Luke all getting their chance to provide something going forward.
This was not just any victory for the Raiders. This was our Captain, Daniel’s, last game as a Raider. Daniel has been a cornerstone of this club since he came to Vietnam four years ago. Nobody has ever secured more sponsor money for one season than Daniel did. There will never be another Daniel German and we now have some very big shoes to fill as a club. Thank you Daniel for all the hard work and time that you have contributed over the years. On behalf of the Raiders I wish you the best of luck in Germany with your old club and new experiences.
On to Olympique boys.