Chapter 4: Europa Here We Come
We start the debut euro qualifying match off to a flier, with two early goals in the 3" min by Pezzella
on a set piece and by academy product captain Yassine Benzia
. A first impression would be that the technical levels are completely different and we should do well to qualify early in the first leg against such a humble opponent, as on the 32" min we score the definitive winner with Benzia
Once the second half picks up again we maintain the control of the match, by scoring three more goals, one at the 70" with Rodrigo
, and then two back to back like in the start, Sanjin Prcic
on the 74" min and Kerim Koyunlu
on the 83" which ends the scoring sheet.
I was with with my teams performance, and I let them know that passionately - they had impressed me and done exactly what I asked of them, work together. Now the second leg should only be a formality, but I only told them not to get complacent as we wouldn't want to give our fans an early disappointment before the start of the league.
The second leg proved to be exactly what I had feared, a slight loss of concentration. Although Fekir
netted in the first goal on the 6" min, Linfields Williamson
equalized on the 11th. Only seconds later would we gain the lead again thanks to Espericueta
, but the match wasn't exactly going like the first leg. Benzia
in the 34" to make it 3-1, but sooner or later they would reply with Williamson
again in the 43" and at the half time I definetly had to prove my worth as a manager in the locker room, otherwise it would be an early titanic moment for us.
The boys started the second half a bit more concentrated and managed to hopefully net the winner with Fekir
again on the 65", although they managed to get one back to complete Williamsons
hat trick on the 69", minutes after. At which point I had enough and parked the bus, going completely defensive for the last 20 minutes of the game. With an aggregate score of 3-10 our side would obviously come on top and move onto the last Qualifying game which would be played against Elfsborg in late August, so we had time to get a bit of form in the first couple of Ligue 1 games.
I'd have to say that I was overall pleased with my debut, as were the fans who looked optimistic of the season ahead, the boys themselves found great chemistry early on - as I thought they would, given their young ages they managed to mix in well with each other, and I was proud of those that came from the academy as they proved to be the most mature of the group - hence those that I knew I could rely on.
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