The Superleague knockout rounds began this past week and the increase in quality on show was visible for all to see. Many teams have used the week off to good effect, refining their formations and looking sharper than ever.
The game of the week was undoubtedly the battle between Fajazzle FC and Special Olympiakos. Following a scoreless first half, Fajazzle began to up the ante after the break and hit the woodwork on no fewer than three occasions.
Midway through the second half, Special Olympiakos struck against the run of play with a trademark counter attack. From there, Fajazzle began chasing the game and were hit for a second goal with minutes remaining. They played to a 2-1 finish, with The Specials now face a red-hot PSGee in the quarter-finals.
The Specials have won every match to date and are evidently unfazed by the challenge of PSGee in the next round. “We’re looking forward to a tough game but we know we’ll definitely be reaching the semi-finals on Thursday. Bleed Special, ” said their Manager and Director of Football Operations, Fergal McGinley.
PSGee made light work of Hop House 11 in the first of the knockout matches this week. The Gee ran out 3-1 winners in the end, with Dan Keegan adding some gloss for Hop House with minutes to go.
PSGee manager Jed Devereux will be delighted to have seen a strong performance from midfield veteran Rob Muldowney. Muldowney has endured a tumultuous couple of weeks, having been the subject of persistent transfer speculation; indeed, most people were of the belief that the midfielder had already played his last game for the club.
This could yet be the case given that New Dehli FC are understood to have made a formal offer to acquire the player in recent days. Muldowney refused to comment on the ongoing transfer speculation, preferring instead to focus on matters on the pitch. “It wasn’t an easy game, we had to be very physical but delighted to get the dub [sic],” he said.
The victory for PSGee was largely down to the exploits of Conor MacMahon who hardly put a foot wrong all game: closing down space in midfield whilst also achieving 100% pass completion. “We were very clinical tonight. They talked up a big game with their win record against us, but we knew they weren’t up to too much,” said MacMahon.
The deadlock was broken by midfielder Tom Donnellan with a 35 yard free-kick into the top left corner. “Similar enough to Dmitri Payet for West Ham I think, but I knew as soon as it left the boot it was going in,” said Donnellan of his goal.
Elsewhere in the Europa League, Paralympiakos marched into the semi-finals in dramatic fashion with a 4-3 win against Zlatan Ibrahit. Sean Haddock bagged himself a brace with Dave Pugh and Ed Kelly completing the scoring.
The Paras are now the favourites to lift the crown and talisman Charlie Allen is certainly optimistic about their chances. “The Europa League is ours; you heard it here first. We’re the Newcastle of this competition,” he said.
One team hoping to stand in their way is Dynamo Tuberculosis who also secured their semi-final passage by virtue of wins against Los Nines and Shelbyville Lemons. Manager Rory Hogan has been extremely pleased with his side’s performance to date and is equally as bullish about his team’s chances of glory.
“We have a great team, we have a great community and we always have a great fanbase as well- the biggest fanbase in the Superleague which we are very proud of. The Europa League is ours to lose,” said Hogan post-match.
So, it’s still all to play for then as this incredible Superleague season rolls on. Some cracking quarter-finals lie in store.
Neil Stokes – Sports Writer