Sassuolo v Padova – Serie C1A
Mother said there would be days like this. However, I could have picked many other days on the calendar I might have preferred.
We had a two-hour coach trip home this evening to think about a match that was not as close as the score and which could easily have been much worse than it was.
We lost, we lost convincingly and we were lucky not to have been blown right out of the Stadio Enzo Ricci. But I repeat myself.
As bad as today was, we actually managed to get to halftime with a nil-nil scoreline despite having put no meaningful pressure on the Sassuolo goal. But in the second half, we lost our shape, we lost our composure and in the end, we lost the match. At least we didn’t lose our dignity. The only saving grace was that it was a long way from home. Had it been at Euganeo, there might have been issues.
Even the crowd was disappointing – only 1,179 bothered to show up to see the match. Most of them went home happy – and then there was me.
As it stands, I am examining my own preparation in light of all the crap that went on this week in my personal life. I have done the very best I could to keep it all away from me but obviously I have failed.
The players very definitely lost their tactical nous in the second half and the result was sort of like the wheezing noise you hear in the cartoons when an engine conks out. We were not getting any gas to where it mattered and the result was an attack that sputtered at the very best.
We had six attempts at goal in the ninety minutes and only three of them went on target. Defensively we were halfway decent, only making two mistakes. Unfortunately they both wound up in our goal, and that’s what happens sometimes.
The first mistake came three minutes after the break when Roberto Colussi shook loose between Faísca and Sacchetti and slotted home past Orlandoni, who got a hand on the ball but couldn’t shift it onto the post. He rose, angry at himself, but I couldn’t fault Paolo for what had happened. It was a hell of a play to get a hand on the ball in the first place and I chose to stay positive after conceding.
We trained all week with the idea of making sure Colussi was accounted for on the pitch. But despite our best efforts, sometimes the other guy just beats you. This was one of those cases and I was happy to see our players bear down soon afterwards.
That turned out to be a good thing, because Baú’s hustle earned us a penalty soon afterwards. Just three minutes after Colussi’s goal we were on the spot. DiNardo was bundled over in the area by defender Nicoló Consolini after taking a very good entry ball from Baú. Referee Giovanni Fatta wasted no time in pointing to the spot and Baú grabbed the ball.
Unfortunately, Baú then clanged his penalty off the crossbar and over the goal, which hurt a lot. Hurt me, that is. The crossbar seemed to be none the worse for wear. Goalkeeper Geoffrey Barretara never even had to move.
Baú stood on the penalty spot, head buried in his hands, and suddenly it was up to his captain, and to me, to get the side motivated again. Eder had made a wonderful play to get the ball into position, and then muffed the chance. We had momentum and just like that it was gone.
Football, like all team sports, is a game of momentum and from that moment we were on the back foot. Playing away, there’s not much you can do about it, and that was certainly true in our case. From that moment, Sassuolo took the initiative and had us on the back foot all the way to the end. It seemed only a matter of time before they hit us again as we were out of ideas in attack and hanging on in defense.
They earned a penalty of their own eleven minutes from time when Sacchetti grabbed Colussi’s shirt in the area and held him back. Fatta was equally quick to give the penalty, and the Sassuolo striker tied everything up in a nice neat little package by wrongfooting Orlandoni from the spot to kill us dead.
I wanted to see spark and determination from the players down two goals and I saw enough of it to make me stay my hand a bit after the match. Still, we hadn’t played well, our formation work in the second half was quite poor, and they took advantage of that to beat us with ease.
The whistle blew for full time and I shook hands with the Sassuolo staff before figuring out what I was going to say to my players as a losing manager for the first time.
We trudged off the pitch to our changing room and the sting of the loss was already starting to set in.
Baú, ever the professional, was already apologizing as we entered the room, but I put a stop to that by simply motioning everyone to their seats. As one, they turned to face me and I spoke to them in Italian.
“We all need to learn from this,” I said. “Obviously, this was not an acceptable effort and that starts with me. Our first half was decent but the second half was the worst we have been all season. Eder, I appreciate you apologizing for missing the penalty but we had fourteen players get out there and we all lost two-nil. The moment we take individual responsibility for a group loss is the day we take a step backwards. Everyone who steps on the pitch when we lose shares responsibility just as everyone who steps on the pitch when we win shares the credit.”
“I want you to hold your heads up,” I said. “We hold our hands up too, because we didn’t play well, but we have another match at Rovigo on Wednesday and we’ll have to be ready. I want us thinking about playing better on the road because we’ll need to put in the tactics for Wednesday starting tomorrow morning. The good news is we have the chance to get right back out there and fix what went wrong today. Think about how you played on the way home and about how you can play better next time you are out there. Hit the showers and let’s get out of here.”
Sassuolo 2-0 Padova
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