It Happened Again
The Dragoons left their recent league woes behind them as Vinsky FC travelled to Poland in the Fenix Trophy. Journeying from the outskirts of Paris, the French YouTube sensations would be making their debut in the competition.
With injuries and availability issues, Hugo Cruz once again made 5 changes to the line up. Marcin Obyrtacz continued in goal, but three defensive changes saw Kuba Drobny the only survivor of the defeat against Prądniczanka II last weekend.
Szymon Urzędowski and Simon Calabrese dropped to the bench as Roman Bilovol and Sasha Arshakian returned to the starting lineup. Josh Dawson dropped out of the squad following his 50th appearance with Francesco Leuci starting at left back.
Following an injury suffered at the weekend, Rob Smits missed the game with Rohit Chandran dropping into midfield to partner Enrico Forabosco and Brian Lemmen.
Alessio Sassini started in attack with Ayoub Chardal and Yuri Samyonov completing the first XI as Andrea Latino dropped to the bench.
With the mist creating an eerie feel, the game kicked off with a frantic start. The ball ping ponged around the pitch as neither side could keep possession.
The first shot of the contest came the way of the Dragoons in the 6th minute. Sassini received a pass just inside the Vinsky half and drove forward with purpose. The Italian ran into a crowd of bodies and the ball spilled out to Ayoub Chardal. The Moroccan marvel cut past an opponent and drove a quick shot at goal, but failed to get the power to trouble the goalkeeper.
Usually, the Dragoons like to control the tempo of the game with short passing from the back. Today the reigns looked to be looser as the Expats had several long passes into the channels for Sassini to chase. On one such occasion, Arshakian found the Italian, who ran with the ball until seeing his progress halted in the box with a clip on the ankles. The striker appealed for a penalty but the official pointed for a goal-kick.
Moments after in the 13th minute, the Dragoons lost possession in their own half. Vinsky could not take advantage however, coming forward in numbers with a shot flying way wide of the goal.
The Visitors Come Close
Vinsky had an excellent opportunity to take the lead two minutes later. The Expats struggled to clear their lines and a clipped ball over to the left wing found the visitors in behind the defence. A cut back found an attacker free in the box, but a tamely struck shot from 10 yards landed straight into the arms of Obyrtacz.
Another chance came the way of Vinksy in the 24th minute as the visitors began seeing more of the ball. A low dipping shot from 30 metres flew at the Dragoons goal, but dropped just wide of the target.
Dragoons Look to Work an Opening
The visitors continued to apply pressure to the Dragoons backline, but the Expats almost created the next opportunity. Once again the chance came from a long floated pass, as Drobny took a free-kick from his own half. The defender floated the ball forward and picked out the late forward run of Forabosco. With the Vinsky defence paying attention to Sassini, Forabosco took a touch, but would not fall for him as a covering defender stole in to win the ball. With Vinsky dallying in possession, Forabosco lunged into a tackle to win the ball back, hooking it to Sassini. The Italian assassin cut onto his right foot, but curled his attempt over the crossbar.
An Early Change
On the half hour mark, Francesco Leuci successfully shielded the ball out of play down the left side. Unfortunately, the Italian full-back immediately went down clutching his hamstring. Play continued as the Dragoons temporarily went down to 10 men with Piotr Hajnrych preparing to come on for Leuci.
Another ball floated long by Bilovol landed at the feet of Sassini. The striker laid a pass into the feet of Forabosco, who went down under a challenge 25 metres from goal. The midfield magician shot direct from the free-kick, but lifted his effort over the bar.
Dragoons Strike the Woodwork
Neither side could keep the ball for any length of time and both defences cancelled each other out. The game felt like it needed a moment of magic to produce the opening goal. That moment almost came with five minutes of the half to play, through the Dragoons Rohit Chandran. The Indian whirlwind pirouetted through the Vinsky midfield and launched a shot at goal. The ball swerved through the air beating the dive of the goalkeeper but crashed back into play off the crossbar! Ayoub Chardal recycled the second ball to Yuri Samyonov, but the Israeli found his route to goal blocked. A good passage of football from the Dragoons and almost an amazing moment!
Vinsky Look for an Equaliser
Down the other end however, Vinsky came straight back and the ball bounced around the Dragoons box. No one could get the ball under control, with an incoming shot bouncing off Drobny’s head and into Obyrtacz’s grasp.
An end to end half saw Forabosco attempt to catch the Vinsky keeper off his line, however, his shot from range produced a routine save by the stopper. Brian Lemmen almost released Sassini moments later, as the ball skipped up off the turf to just evade the striker.
Woodwork Struck Again!
The final chance of the half came the way of the visitors after a period of pressure. A long shot from range caught Obytracz out with the Dragoons keeper scrambling across his goal. The shot looked to be heading for the top corner, but fortunately struck the crossbar and out of play.
A big sigh of relief for the Expats as the first period came to an end. It had been an entertaining half with both sides having chances for the opening goal. The Dragoons had worked hard, playing well in spells and dealing with the pace of Vinsky quite well.
Vinsky came flying out the blocks the quickest as the second half got under way. A long kick forward by the goalkeeper saw Sasha Arshakian head the ball into midfield. The visitors got to the second ball first and a pass looked to put Vinsky through on the Dragoons goal. Arshakian had other ideas however, putting in a great slide tackle to win the ball and Bilovol completed the clearance.
Dragoons Under Pressure!
A minute later in the 52nd minute, the Dragoons lost the ball and the visitors broke forward once again. A neat reverse pass found an attacker in on goal, but an advanced Obyrtacz got down well to keep the shot out. The ball fell to the feet of another attacker and with Obyrtacz grounded, the Vinsky man struck firmly at goal. On this occasion, Roman Bilovol bravely threw himself at the ball on the goal-line to deny a certain opener for the visitors.
The Dragoons struggled to deal with the pressure from the visitors who continued to attack relentlessly. Vinsky utilised their pace to get through on goal, but another save from Obyrtacz saw the ball back at the feet of an attacker for a rebound. A chipped effort went over the heads of the covering Bilovol and the floored Obyrtacz, but Sasha Arshakian came to the rescue, being well placed to head the chance away.
Tightening Things Up
Hugo Cruz looked to tighten the Dragoons midfield minutes later as Corneille Malonga entered the game in place of Chardal. Rohit Chandran moved to left wing vacated by the Moroccan to inject some pace to the Dragoons flank.
The move appeared to be just the tonic as the Dragoons began to see more possession. Their first attack of note came in the 68th minute as Sassini crossed towards Samyonov in the Vinsky area. The Israeli could not get a great connection to the ball and it flew across goal into Chandran on the opposite wing. The Dragoons continued passing it around, but ran into a wall on the edge of the box and Vinsky cleared.
Into the 72nd minute, the Dragoons created an excellent chance to score. The hardworking Sassini did well to take a goal-kick from Obyrtacz out of the air, turning and sprinting down the right channel. The Italian hurdled a challenge and sent a pass into Samyonov to cross. The Israeli picked out the run of Malonga in the box, with the Congolese midfielder taking a touch before blasting the ball over.
As the minutes ticked by, the Dragoons slowly found themselves getting on top. Eventually, they made the pressure pay by grabbing the opening goal. A foul on Sassini gave the Expats a crossing chance with 78 minutes on the clock. Forabosco stepped up as usual and curled the ball towards the 6 yard box. Sassini appeared to be the only man on the move, losing his marker and delicately glancing the ball past the stranded goalkeeper to put the Dragoons 1-0 into the lead.
Despite going behind, the goal seemed to breathe a fresh impetus into the visiting team. The Dragoons began to panic in possession and resorted to smacking the ball long, giving it straight back to Vinsky.
On 82 minutes, an excellent pass over the Dragoons defence found the run of an attacker down the left wing. A fizzing low cross came along the 6 yard box, but the ball just evaded an outstretched boot.
Vinsky continued to pile forward as the seconds ticked by, with the Dragoons just about holding on. Obyrtacz kept out a couple of tame efforts at goal and it looked as if the Dragoons might just hold on.
With 88 minutes played, the Expats looked to extend their lead as Malonga intercepted a pass inside the visitors half. He found Latino ahead of him, with the Dragoons having the numerical advantage with four attackers over three defenders. Latino elected to take on a shot, but side-footed his attempt over the crossbar.
From the resulting goal-kick, Vinsky went straight onto the offensive to level the game with just a minute left. A long kick from the keeper bounced deep into the Dragoons half and Vinsky came away with the ball. A pass to the left found an opponent in acres of space to run towards the Dragoons box. Quick footwork saw the winger get to the by-line and hang a looping cross towards the back post. The Expats defence got caught flat-footed with the cross and an attacker climbed highest to put the ball into the net.
Heartbreak – Vinsky Score a Second
Within 30 seconds, Vinsky had completed the comeback to break the Dragoons hearts. From kick-off the exasperated Expats lost the ball and left themselves exposed at the back. A pass beyond Calabrese saw an attacker in the box with just Obyrtacz to beat. The keeper advanced off his line, but a quickly taken poke saw the ball roll under the Polish stopper and into the net for 2-1.
Straight from kick-off, Forabosco travelled with the ball and launched a ball over the defence into Latino. The substitute took a touch but took too long to finish, going down in a heap under pressure from a defender just outside the 6 yard box. The Italian appealed desperately to the referee, but play continued with the official signalling to play on.
Injury time came and went without any chances being created with the Expats falling to a last minute defeat. A painful crushing defeat, just days after losing in the last minute in the league.
An extremely entertaining game of football that the Dragoons will learn from. The Expats shaded the first half, but Vinsky looked the likelier to score in the early stages of the second period. The boys defended manfully and Obyrtacz made some vital stops to keep the team level.
There are plenty of positives for the Dragoons despite the defeat. They restricted Vinsky to long shots for the most part and created some good chances. A slightly more direct style saw the Expats come away from their usual passing game, putting the opposition defence under pressure. It helped the Dragoons get up the pitch quicker and forced the opposition defenders into making mistakes, allowing the team to start moves higher up the pitch. The passion, heart and aggression showed the Expats capability to fight for each other, something that has been lacking in recent games.
In the end, the superior pace, fitness and technicality paid off as Vinsky went home with the win. The Dragoons seemed to go into panic mode after scoring and treated the ball like a hot potato. Instead of professionally seeing the game out, the Expats gifted possession back to Vinsky, chasing the ball and allowing them to come forward and exploit space. The ability to stretch the Dragoons defence with pace became evident and ultimately saw Vinsky get back into the game.
After the equaliser went into the net, the Dragoons looked deflated. Vinsky smelt blood and sadly went for the jugular as the Expats lost concentration to concede a second.
It was an extremely hard working performance against a good side and the Dragoons came within a whisker of earning their first victory in the Fenix Trophy.