This week has been another one of riveting Superleague action. With the majority of knockout places now confirmed, a quieter week is on the cards next week, as many sides will use the week off to take a well-earned rest, with others look to keep sharp by playing friendly games.
The major talking point of the week was the Group 6 showdown between Dynamo TB and Special Olympiakos. Dynamo were uncharacteristically below par as they fell to a heavy 13-1 defeat. A result some are calling a Superleague record. Dynamo’s Rory Hogan was at a loss to explain the reason for his side’s underperformance, however he was confident that his side will regather themselves in time for a Europa League title tilt.
Another noteworthy result this week was the 2-2 draw between Hop House 11 and Paralympiakos on Saturday. The result was enough for Hop House to qualify, but in a major surprise, it also means that a talented Paralympiakos squad have now failed to secure qualification for the Champions League.
Elsewhere, PSGee survived a major upset against Annetrapped Frankfurt, securing a 2-2 draw by virtue of a late Charlie Barrett equaliser. At 2-1 down the game could have been lost were it not for a low push-away by new arrival Genghis in goal. The draw helped PSGee to secure top spot in Group 4.
Manager Jed Devereux will have been delighted to see a return to action for the potent offensive triumvirate that is Rob Muldowney, Tom Donnellan and Danny Hogan. The latter pair returned to action following their 14-day quarantine necessitated by a mid-season break in Vale do Lobo. Of concern to Devereux however, is the fact that both players displayed a notable lack of fitness as the second half wore on, much to Frankfurt’s advantage.
“I don’t think I was off the pace really, maybe as a side we were a bit off,” said PSGee’s Hogan. “We tend to bring up our game a little bit when we play the better sides. But, when you play lads like Annetrapped… they just kick lumps out of you.”
Donnellan’s assessment was more mea culpa in nature compared to Hogan’s self-assured verdict. “I did a bit too much running on the sand, couldn’t get the legs going today. It was quite warm tonight and I couldn’t acclimatise. Definitely I was below par, but we’ve qualified and that’s all that matters. We’ll focus on the knockouts and go from there,” said Donnellan
St Ketienne, weakened by a large number of quarantining players, also made sure of their qualification thanks to wins against Shelbyville Lemon Trees and Krystle Palace.
Midfielder John O’Keane was in optimistic form following the victories. “We have shown that we are winners regardless of the team we field. That said, our strongest team will be available for the elimination games and that makes us very confident to seal this title,” said O’Keane. “I think a lot of the other teams know what we’re about and the culture of excellence we have at the club. It’s hard to keep guys like that satisfied without consistently winning.”
Talisman Bertie Young has been instrumental in guiding his side through to the knockouts and exuded an equally confident air. “Our lads didn’t have their shooting boots over in Portugal, but by God will they have them on when we hit the Rugby Astro next week,” said Young.
Ketienne are understandably rotating their squad ahead of next week’s dead-rubber against Kilmacud Cokes, who have also qualified having topped their group. Ketienne will be giving some of their players the chance to catch their breath. “I have let a few of the players who didn’t head abroad, go for a staycation down the country to let the lads who are just out of quarantine get minutes into their legs before the knockout stages,” said Young.
Kilmacud have won all of their 5 matches so far and look in menacing form. When asked about their status as tournament favourites, defender Niall Bobbett answered with a degree of confidence which has been reflected in their swashbuckling performances of late. “Qualifying from the group was only a formality. Our tournament really only starts come the knockout stage,” said Bobbett.
Another team to secure their qualification this week was Fajazzle FC, one of the most underrated teams in the competition. With their strongest team on the pitch they are capable of causing an upset against the bigger sides. Midfielder Matt Duignan shares this sentiment. “We’re ones to watch out for if our players show up and are match fit,” he said.
The draw for the knockout rounds will be made on Wednesday. From there, the road to Champions League glory begins in earnest. Strap yourselves in.
Neil Stokes – Sports Writer