With the 5-2 Ashes drubbing fresh in the memory, Raiders arrived at the Tri Hai stadium in confident, buoyant mood, despite the brief 48-hour respite from seeing off an always pesky Japan side. They also arrived far more sober, with ‘Christ’ and Eric smelling more like their usual Africa Lynx Christmas boxsets than the underbelly of Pasteur street. Sipho ‘It’s all about me’ Ncube shrewdly decided against a pre-match party on a Monday night, looking ‘ripped and clipped’, having clearly ‘blasted the quads’ as his target of surpassing his body-icon Fola gains momentum heading into Spring. ‘Lean season is in’ , he declares as he counts his cashew nuts in front of Pauline, already regretting her return to Saigon.
The little rest from league action did nay affect the Raiders as they began brightly, controlling the play from the spine of the ballin’ CBs to through the middle and wide options. Within the first ten minutes, their possession counted as Clem produced a delightful chip for Christ to hold off the loudmouth Sweeney, letting Giulio swoons to come from nowhere and chip with the outside of his left peg over the hapless keeper. 1-0 to the Italian stallion, usually more guilty of pulling girls/groins than of pulling off such fine finishing. ‘Aaa playa it into the space-a’ he demanded, still presumably irate at pineapple on pizza or milky lattes being served in the afternoon.
Raiders pressed on and soon after, Giulio’s evergreen Italian counterpart, Jimmy ‘Qualdini’ provided a deceptive long ball for Eric to fire a decent effort from the corner of the penalty box. A fine save only prevented Eric from adding a quick second, as he and ex-viking strike partner Ema combined again to force the Saints keeper into another stop. Raiders looked in relentless form, with some delightful deliveries from Clem needing just the final touch from a Raiders attacker.
Half time – Raiders 1 – S* 0
The second half began as it left with the opposition unable to quell the Raiders attacking onslaught and muster anything more than the occasional threat from a set piece or cross. ‘The city was on lockdown’ for a Raiders back four, including the unusual presence of the irish Cafu Jamie Fox, turning his winger this way and that, even if on the edge of his own box.
Time marched on as Hallett ‘we can’t cope with two Chris’ thought he had added a second, wheeling away with an ahead-of-its-time fist-pump celebration after a fine volleyed despatch from Stephan’s precise through ball. Alas, that wildly imaginative celebration was for nothing as the linesman flagged, signalling Hallett was too long and gangly for his own good.
The game hit somewhat of a lull as cries from the sideline of ‘Jerrrrry’ echoed at various breaks in play only for the raiders to glance over and see Kevin Fox glug his 11th tiger. Ah, no more questions needed, your honour.
Clem almost brought the game back to life as he danced through several challenges only to hit his volley into the hands of the grateful GK. ‘Christ’ did his best to make up for Saturday’s first touch like a trampoline with several rampaging runs and both Clem and Giulio went close once more as the decisive second seemed like it might prove elusive.
Step forward the ballin’ CB’s once more as Stephan launched a long through ball to Ema to calmly hold off two defenders and slot into the top bin. A second successive clean sheet AND an assist for the enigmatic Spaniard/German/Italian/Argentinean/whatever nation is playing the best football at the time, in his penultimate league outing for the Raiders. Prior to this, the s* went closest to an incredibly undeserved equaliser, with Mirko providing a good save from #12 as they left their half for a rare expedition.
2 wins, 6 goals scored and 0 goals conceded. Enough said.
Notable mentions: Mirko, Stephan, Clem, Sipho
MOTM: Jimmy Qualdini