Two on the Trot
A glorious late September afternoon saw the Dragoons take on Zawisza Sulechów for the very first time. Zawisza had started the season well, remaining unbeaten, whilst the Expats went in search of their second consecutive win.
With a strong squad to chose from, Hugo Cruz faced a positive selection headache ahead of the game. Gabi Muñoz continued in goal, with only one change coming in the backline with Simon Calabrese starting in the place of Sasha Arshakian to partner stand in captain Kuba Drobny. Roman Bilovol and Francesco Leuci completed the defence at right and left back respectively.
In midfield, Enrico Forabosco dropped to the bench with Emre Çolakoğlu coming into the starting XI. Rob Smits also returned to the team, with Corneille Malonga continuing to anchor the midfield alongside them.
In attack, Alessio Sassini’s absence saw Rohit Chandran move onto the right wing with Yuri Samyonov starting centrally in attack. Meanwhile, Flavio Nkola continued on the left wing for his second appearance of the season.
A pensive start saw both sides trying to get a feel of the game, with the first shot in anger coming in the 5th minute for the visitors. Zawisza worked the ball from left to right nicely and a cut back on the edge of the box saw a long range effort clear the Dragoons goal.
Zawisza Start Brightly
The Dragoons struggled to get the ball out of their half in the opening stages, as Zawisza pressed effectively. A pass forward from the visitors saw a foul conceded by the Expats, presenting a crossing opportunity. A low fizzing cross went through a forest of legs, with the Expats forced to put the ball out for a corner.
On 14 minutes, the Expats won a free-kick in the Zawisza half. Çolakoğlu sent a searching pass forward, however, the bounce of the ball just evaded Samyonov and the visitors cleared.
Gabi Muñoz needed to be alert for the Expats with a quarter of an hour of the game played. An excellent pass split the Dragoons defence with a shot coming in at a tight angle. Muñoz however, positioned himself well to push the opportunity wide.
Neither side could get the upper hand as the half progressed. Both teams struggled to keep the ball for any period of time as an interesting battle for possession played out.
Dragoons First Chance
Excellent play from Leuci saw him start and almost finish a good move midway through the half. The Italian did well to receive Smits’ pass and came forward between two opponents. A clever threaded pass from the full-back found Smits advanced on the flank with Leuci continuing his run into the box. The Dutchmeester hung the ball into it and Leuci got a firm header, but could not guide the ball towards goal.
With 41 minutes on the clock, a free-kick resulted in the Dragoons conceding a second foul within shooting range. An interesting set-piece routine saw a shot at the Expats goal, however, Kuba Drobny stopped it in its tracks. The Polish defender put his head where it hurts to divert the ball harmlessly behind his own goal for a corner.
Shot on Target
The Dragoons managed to work their first shot on target on the stroke of half time. Good build up play saw the Expats win a throw-in high in the Zawisza half. The hosts managed to half clear the danger, however, Chandran got to loose ball first and found Çolakoğlu. The Turkish man-mountain ambled forward and laid a pass into Nkola on the edge of the box. The Angolan had time and space to turn, advancing into the box before driving a shot straight at Tomasz Zbrojato, who unorthodoxly saved with his knees.
As the clock ticked into injury time, Flavio Nkola saw a long range effort deflected out for a corner. Rohit Chandran sent the ball towards the near post with Simon Calabrese getting to it first unchallenged. The Italian sent a strong header at goal, however, it failed to reach the target and the half time whistle sounded straight after.
It had hardly been a classic game in the first period. Neither side could find a way to get on top or a straightforward route to goal. All too often, both sides struggled to penetrate each other’s final halves with a lack of a final ball. The Dragoons had shown flashes of getting the upper hand as the half wore on, but would need to be better to win the game.
A quick start to the second period saw the Dragoons win a free-kick inside the Zawisza half. Çolakoğlu arrowed the ball into the visitors penalty box, however, a defensive header sent it wide. The following corner from Nkola saw the ball bobble around the box and spin in the direction of Smits. The midfield metronome took a touch on his chest, but could only screw his volley wide of the goal. Positive signs for the Expats, however!
Big Chance Missed
On 50 minutes, the Dragoons spurned a glorious chance to put themselves into the lead. Good pressing by Smits led to a mistake by an opponent and Nkola toed a pass to Çolakoğlu. The midfield powerhouse touched it forward to Samyonov, who delightfully back-heeled a pass into Nkola’s feet. The irrepressible Angolan did well to hold off a challenge and returned a first-time pass to put the Israeli through on goal. Samyonov took a touch to set himself, but could not repeat last weekend’s heroics as he forced Zbroja into a routine save to his right.
The Dragoons kept on fighting on the front foot and Zawisza struggled to get the ball out of their own half. A foul on Nkola a minute after the Samyonov chance, saw Çolakoğlu shoot from range direct from the free-kick. Once again however, the shot failed to trouble Zbroja, who comfortably grabbed the ball to save.
Dragoons Make the Breakthrough
A healthy travelling contingent from Sulechów attempted to rally their troops with songs of support of their team. It would be in vain however, as the Dragoons capitalised on their fine start to the half with the opening goal in the 53rd minute. Rob Smits pressed relentlessly and forced the visitors into conceding possession high up the pitch. The Dutchman crossed left footed into the box and found Yuri Samyonov in acres of space centrally. The Israeli took an unusually poor first touch, which took him away from goal. However, he recovered his composure to lay a pass to his right where Chandran lay in wait. The Indian whirlwind set himself with a touch and then blasted the ball into the net beyond Zbroja for 1-0.
Just a minute later, Zawisza came perilously close to equalling the score. A free-kick from close to the centre circle came flying into the Expats penalty box. The Dragoons failed to clear their lines and an absolute rocket of a shot from 18 metres fizzed narrowly over the bar.
Nearly a Second
In the 58th minute, an almost carbon copy move to their first goal, saw the Dragoons close to extending their lead. A miscued clearance landed straight at the feet of Samyonov, who lofted a pass to Smits just inside the corner of the box. The Dutchmeester cut inside and immediately found Saymonov with a return pass by the penalty spot. On his right stood Chandran in space, however on this occasion, Samyonov took on the shot himself. Unfortunately for the Expats, a defender got in the way of the Israeli’s effort and the danger passed for the visitors.
On the hour, the visitors won themselves a corner after a good intervention by Calabrese. Zawisza recycled the second ball after the Dragoons failed to clear and a shot came at goal from outside the box. The effort zipped along the turf, but failed to seriously test Muñoz in between the Expats’ posts.
The Dragoons maintained their discipline and looked to effect their possession based style of play on the game. Whilst the Expats kept the ball well, defensive blocks and close offside calls stopped them in their tracks.
Dragoons Grab a Second Goal
In the 72nd minute however, the Dragoons managed to grab a second goal to extend their lead to 2-0. A terrible misplaced pass by a Zawisza defender put Nkola in possession on the halfway line. The Angolan picked out the forward run of Smits on the left hand side of the pitch and he immediately lifted a pass to the backpost, picking out Chandran. The Dragoons goalscorer laid a pass back across the 6 yard box to Samyonov who struck first-time at goal. Samyonov failed to get a great contact on the ball and as it bobbled towards goal, Nkola nipped in front of a defender to tuck it home for his first goal of the campaign.
Two minutes later, the Dragoons almost grabbed a third goal. Excellent passing football split the Zawsiza defence, with the ball being worked to Chandran out wide. The mercurial attacker turned his opposing full-back inside out with trickery, before sending a cross into the box. Rob Smits showed good movement to get to the ball ahead of a static defence, however, the Dutchman nodded his chance wide of the goal.
On 76 minutes, Zawisza almost found a way back into the game with Muñoz coming to the Dragoons rescue. A lovely pass beyond the Dragoons defence saw the visitors with the ball out wide. An incoming cross with pace saw the ball headed at goal from close range, with the Chilean stopper showing great reactions to keep it out of his net with an outstretched leg. The danger had not passed however, as the ball bounced up straight to an opponent in front of the goal. Fortunately for the Dragoons, the Zawisza attacker failed to get a meaningful touch on the rebound and Muñoz recovered to gather.
With 7 minutes of the game left to play, the Dragoons came close from the left boot of Enrico Forabosco. A period of excellent possession football, saw the Expats move the ball around with Zawisza chasing shadows. Nice trickery saw Nkola burst through the centre of the park, with a nasty foul ending his progress. Substitute Forabosco stepped up to take the following kick and saw his curling attempt drop just wide of the post.
In the 87th minute, another chance fell the way of the imperious Expats. Drobny cut out a Zawisza long pass and headed the ball clear. Forabosco picked up possession in his own half and sent a fabulous lofted pass into space for Ayoub Chardal to run onto. The Moroccan substitute cut on to his favoured right peg, but lifted a shot inside the box over the crossbar.
The same combination produced an opportunity with a similar result with a minute of normal time remaining. Impressive pressing even at this late stage of the game saw the Dragoons win possession back. Forabosco found Chardal in space on the left again, but the midfielder again sent an effort sailing wide of the goal.
Deep into injury time an ambitious effort from distance saw the ball go horribly wide of the Dragoons goal. It proved to be the last action of the game as the final whistle sounded to end an entertaining game. The victory sees the Dragoons rise to 4th place in the current league standings with Zawisza dropping to 7th.
The Dragoons second half performance was a joy to behold. In the last couple of games, the Expats have struggled to come out of the break on top. After a mixed bag first half, the Dragoons flew out of the traps in the second period and set their stall out early. It had not been a terrible first half, however, the side could not keep the ball long enough to create a telling chance. Much credit should go to Zawsiza in the first half, who did well to stop the Expats in their traps.
The Dragoons never gave up however and made their intentions clear in the second half. Better pressing, fluid movement, great team cohesion and discipline saw things turn around in their favour. The Expats forced their opponents into making mistakes and capitalised on the enforced errors to win. Another positive for the Expats is their second clean sheet in a row for the first time since the 21/22 season. Gabriel Muñoz made a vital stop to preserve the Dragoons advantage and the defence dealt well with the danger chucked at them. A lot of long passes that have caused issues in the past, got dealt with comfortably in an encouraging display.
All in all, the Dragoons professionally saw the game out and shows the hard work put in by players and coaching staff alike is paying off.
The Expats travel to Michałowice for their next fixture for the third away game of the season so far. Originally formed as Huragan Michałowice in 1966, a name change in 1985 sees the opponents known as Michałowianka Michałowice in their current guise.
One of the bigger teams in the league, Michałowianka played two seasons at IV Liga before withdrawing from the league in 2017/2018. They started the 18/19 season in Klasa A and have struggled to get into the higher league positions since. Last season, Michałowianka finished the season in a comfortable 7th position and will face the Dragoons for the first time next week.
This season has seen Michalowice start brightly with 3 wins from their opening 3 games making them the early league leaders. It will not be a simple task for the Dragoons, however, they will take confidence in what should be an interesting encounter.