Raiders 3 – Vietnamese Dutch – 0
The Raiders continued their impressive pre-season form with a hard fought win over a young and technical local team. The match provided a real fitness test which was exactly what some of the returning Raiders needed after summers of wine (Angelo), babies/wedding (Laurie), Jet setting (Niko/Paddy) and Bangkok (oh my eyes). The Raiders tried their new formation which again worked well allowing them to control the midfield and win the ball back quickly. A back four of Paddy, Andreas, Vincent and Vinh played in front of Angelo and allowed the opposition very few clear cut opportunities throughout the game. A central midfield three consisting of Laurie, Albin and Vu ensured the back four had protection and prevented any attacks through the middle. Niko and Kai then played out wide to provide support for Craig who was returning from injury up front.
In a closely contested first half the Raiders were never really close to conceding and created a number of half chances a the other end. Craig felt he should have had a penalty after having his foot clipped after turning the defender in the box but the ref was having none of it. Kai and Paddy were linking up well on the left but the final ball wasn’t falling to the Raiders. By pressing high the Vietnamese were forced into long balls which Andreas and Vincent cleaned up with ease. Craig had a volley from a Vu free kick go wide and it looked like the half was going to end 0-0 before the Raiders were awarded a free kick in a great central position. Laurie stood over it and despite Craig shouting for a substitution from the side lines took the free kick. His first effort was into the wall but as the wall had advance to within 3 feet of him it was rightly retaken. Andreas cleverly pointed out that the wall had all jumped and Laurie took note drilling his second free kick hard and low under the jumping wall into the bottom corner. 1-0 half time.
Angleo was happy with the first half performance and encouraged the Raiders to continue to play the same. The only point raised was the number of needless free kicks conceded by barging into the back of players shielding the ball in needless positions. Unfortunately this continued in the second half and is something that will have to be addressed in future. The second half started with the opposition number 5 seemingly on a mission to get sent off (perhaps a Raider had stolen his girlfriend over the summer?) He was constantly late into tackles and was rightly booked early in the half for a late challenge. The Raiders were keeping the ball better and apart from a few scares were in control. Good work from Niko taking on players in the box led to a penalty after the defender was judged to have used his arm. A lot of Vietnamese refs wouldn’t have given it; the ref was very good throughout the game and was fair to both teams the only criticism was the failure to send off the number 5. Laurie stepped up to take it hoping to banish some demons from last season and (I changed my mind 3 times in the run up) calmly placed it in the bottom corner.
It should have been 3-0 after Niko and Craig linked up nicely with a series of one-twos but Niko’s cross across the goal line was agonisingly out of reach. The Raiders were getting increasingly frustrated by the number 5’s antics and this was brought to a head when he needlessly slammed into Paddy with a high challenge, it should have been a straight red but the ref didn’t even give the 2nd yellow. Paddy was forced to go off and ponder the damage the early bath would do to his pro zone stats. The substitutes allowed the Raiders to maintain momentum in the 2nd half with Anthony and Bao making important interceptions at the back to prevent counter attacks, Yuan making his debut slotted in seamlessly at the back, Rasul was his usual tireless self in the middle. In attack Miguel provided some Catalan poise on the ball to work some clever openings with Ishmail who provided real problems for their right back creating a number of good crosses with surging runs down the wing. The Raiders got the 3rd goal after a long kick from Angelo was volleyed first time (intentionally) by Craig out wide to Laurie who ran past his man before delivering a cut back cross for Craig to slot home first time. Niko nearly added a 4th after taking on players in the box but the game ended 3-0. Another solid win.