A Win’s a Win
A balmy Sunday morning saw the Dragoons face bottom side Bratniak at Prądniczanka. Scott Halcrow took charge once again in Hugo Cruz’s absence, putting his unbeaten run on the line! With a strong squad to choose from, Halcrow made 5 changes to the starting XI.
Marcin Obyrtacz kept his place in the team in between the posts for a second consecutive week, with Gabi Muñoz out injured.
Szymon Urzędowski made his first start since the opening day, coming into the team for Roman Bilovol at right-back. Simon Calabrese returned to the starting XI as captain in central defence, replacing Kuba Drobny who dropped to the bench. Sasha Arshakian and Josh Dawson continued at centre back and left back respectively to complete the Dragoons defence.
An injury suffered last week saw Corneille Malonga drop out of the squad with Brian Lemmen starting at the base of midfield. There was a first start of the season for Algerian Tarek Boufeniza in the place of Emre Çolakoğlu, lining up next to Rohit Chandran who continued in the middle.
In attack saw Taye Johnson and Ayoub Chardal start once again, with Flavio Nkola being the only change as Yuri Samyonov started the game as a substitute.
The Dragoons looked hungry from the start, putting the Bratniak back-line under pressure immediately.
Dragoons Score Early
In only five minutes, the Expats took the lead to solidify their early dominance. As the Dragoons came forward, a misplaced pass by Chardal saw visiting defender Bartek Środoń attempt to pass out the back and gift the ball straight back to the Moroccan marvel on the flank. Under no real pressure, Chardal found time to elegantly dink a pass to Rohit Chandran in space on the edge of the box. The Indian whirlwind took a touch to set himself and then lashed a powerful effort on the half volley that Tomasz Galganek could only wave at as it hit the back of the net to put the Dragoons 1-0 ahead.
With the lead established, the Dragoons smelt blood and looked to go for more as Bratniak defended deep. The Expats dominated the ball, but found the final pass difficult against the massed ranks of defenders. With Bratniak camped in their own half, as soon as they did win possession, they soon lost it again with aimless passes.
As the Dragoons began to move the ball quicker, a foul gave the Expats a free shot at goal with quarter of an hour of the game played. The irrepressible Ayoub Chardal stood over the ball and sent a curling effort arrowing towards the top corner. On this occasion however, Galganek made an excellent save, sprawling to his right to fingertip the effort away.
Moments after, a run from Taye Johnson saw the winger bypass a couple of challenges and toe a pass to Chardal. The attacker let fly from the edge of the box once again, but hit the ball straight at Galganek.
On 21 minutes, Josh Dawson rose highest from a corner, getting a firm connection with his head to the ball. The Englishman is quite a threat from set-pieces, but on this occasion, the ball flew over the bar. It looked like the attempt took a knick of a Bratniak defender, but the officials gave a goal-kick.
The Expats continued to command the game as Bratniak rarely foraged forward. The visitors seemed content to flood the back-line forcing the Dragoons to try shots from range. Chandran attempted one such effort, but sent his attempt way wide of the goal.
At the halfway point, the Dragoons moved the ball nicely and Johnson found himself in space on the right flank. The South African fizzed the ball across the 6 yard line, but no Dragoons player gambled as the chance went begging.
Dragoons Double Their Lead
Two minutes later in the 32nd minute however, the Dragoons exercised their control of the match to notch a second goal. Ayoub Chardal showed quick feet to get past two opponents, before seeing his progress halted by a foul. As the ball rolled into the feet of Chandran, the referee waved for the game to continue. The Indian spun past an outstretched leg of an opponent and smashed a fierce shot at goal from 25 metres. The effort swerved wickedly through the air and flew past the outstretched arm of Galganek to give the Dragoons and Chandran their second goal of the game.
A Moment To Forget
Three minutes later brought a moment of comedy in a light-hearted moment. Earlier in the week, the Expats celebrated the 50th appearance of the Dutch dynamo Brian Lemmen. The utility-man’s first goal for the club saw him hit a wonder-strike against Fairant on his first start. With the Dragoons advancing up the pitch, an attempted pass from Chandran deflected out to the edge of the box. With the crowd taking a deep breath, the stars seemed to align and time stood still as Lemmen sprinted onto the loose ball to smash a shot at goal.
Unfortunately, any vision of the ball hitting the back of the net soon vanished as the miscued attempt by the Dutchman sailed horribly wayward and ended up going out for a throw, accompanied by ironic cheers from the Dragoons faithful in the stands.
Immediately after, the Dragoons went back to business winning possession back and driving forward. A lovely defence splitting through-pass saw Chandran almost turn provider as Johnson raced in on goal. With Galganek advanced off of his line, the winger appeared to rush his attempt and poked the ball well wide.
The final chance of the half almost yielded an excellent third goal in the 42nd minute. Better known for his aerial prowess, Dawson showed he is equally adept with the ball at his feet. Neat trickery saw the Englishman pass an opponent down the left and give the ball to Chandran, whilst continuing his run into the box. Chandran and Chardal played a one-two, with the Indian looking up and picking out Dawson unmarked inside the box. The defender took time to pick his spot, driving a low shot at goal and just missing the target by a hair’s width!
Half time came shortly afterwards with the Dragoons in complete control of the game at 2-0. Bratniak looked a side devoid of confidence, constantly giving the ball away and struggling all over the pitch. Marcin Obyrtacz and the Expats defence had been bystanders for the most part as Bratniak struggled to get forward.
Down the other end, the Dragoons had worked the ball around nicely, scoring two excellent goals. The only negative aspect was that the Expats had not scored more!
An enforced change at the break saw Emre Çolakoğlu come into the game to replace the injured Brian Lemmen.
Bratniak Come Close
Despite not showing much attacking intent in the first half, the visitors started the second period the brighter side. A glorious chance just a minute after the restart probably should have resulted in a goal.
Bratniak took advantage of sloppy possession, playing a passing triangle with Paweł Kiermasz turning nicely and putting the ball towards Bartek Kasztelewicz. The visiting forward pulled off an excellent piece of skill to get beyond Arshakian, and with just Obyrtacz to beat, Kasztelewicz blasted his shot over the bar when well placed. A huge let off early in the half for the Expats.
The visitors continued to have the upper hand in the opening 5 minutes of the half as the Dragoons struggled to find their mojo. However, a 51st minute counter-attack showed that the Expats had the ability to hurt their opponents.
Josh Dawson played a pass up the line towards Chardal who went down in heap under pressure. The referee played the advantage as Nkola took possession and turned on the after-burners leaving the lumbering Bartek Środoń for dead. The Angolan charged into the box, only to be upended by a blatant trip, but the official remained unmoved as play continued. After the ball went out of play, the referee brandished a yellow card to Nkola to complete the Angolan’s frustration.
The Dragoons began to see a lot of the ball, but a lack of a final pass in attack saw moves break down. Bratniak continued to put the feelers out and a long range shot from Robert Kupka warmed Obyrtacz’s gloves for the first time in the 57th minute, with the stopper saving easily.
The Israelites Enter
With an hour of the game played the Dragoons made a double change. Ayoub Chardal and Taye Johnson made way, with the latter having been off the field with an injury. Yuri Samyonov and Isreal Olusoji entered the game in their place to try and re-establish the Dragoons dominance.
The game had a distinct lethargic feel about it as the half wore on. Bratniak however, almost found a way back into the game with 68 minutes played. Skipper Rafał Dąbrowicz got past Boufeniza down the flank and found Mieszko Makowski in the box with a low pass. Makowski side-footed an effort towards the top corner of the goal, but saw his effort sail just wide of the mark.
As the half progressed the Dragoons put together some nice combinations to get the ball forward. Unfortunately, a lack of a shot and poor decision making saw possession wasted.
Dawson and Boufeniza made way with 30 minutes left as Oleksii Bilorukavyi and club legend Dani Silva came on.
Silva Gets The Gold
On 74 minutes, Sasha Arshakian headed away a cross into the Dragoons box and Chandran touched the ball into Nkola. With no one ahead of him, the Angolan accelerated up the pitch with the Expats outnumbering Bratniak at the back. Nkola cut inside and laid a pass to Silva on the edge of the box. Instead of shooting, the Dragoons hero tried to tee up a shot for Olusoji, but saw his pass cut out for a corner, causing angry shouts from Scott Halcrow on the touchline.
The shouts of anger turned to cheers of happiness in a matter of seconds from the resulting corner, however. Nkola stepped up to take the kick and whipped the ball towards the penalty spot. Silva did excellently well to escape the attentions of his marker, stooping to meet the ball and firmly planting it into the net past the despairing dive of Tomasz Galganek to make it 3-0. An amazing moment and 11th career goal for a true Dragoons legend. The goal sees Silva achieve the record of the only Expat player to have scored in each of the Dragoons five seasons as an official club.
The Dragoons Push Forward
With 10 minutes of the game to go, Silva found himself involved once again. Chandran nutmegged an opponent to get the ball to Nkola, who sent a return pass forward. The Indian saw his attempted pass to Samyonov cut out, but good pressing from Silva saw the Portuguese cut out a pass. A subsequent attempted sliding challenge to clear saw the ball bobble into the air off of Silva’s shins, with the playmaker taking a touch and launching a cross into the path of Olusoji. Rather than shoot, the Nigerian scampered across the box and put Nkola in possession. The Dragoons striker needed no invitation to shoot, but saw his curling effort land safely into the gloves of Galganek.
It would be the last action of the game for Nkola as Vałdzis Fuhaś came on for his second debut. Owing to paperwork issues, the Belarusian has been forced to spend the majority of his time in the stands.
Fuhaś found himself immediately involved after an awful quick free-kick from Bratniak put Olusoji in possession. The Nigerian passed to Chandran who looked to put Fuhaś through in goal. A good tackle from Środoń, the giant visiting defender, saw the ball fall to Olusoji again who crossed to the back post. Samyonov found himself in acres of space, but failed to get any direction on the ball as it thudded against his head and out of play.
Into the 85th minute, Chandran came close to grabbing a superb hat-trick and the Dragoons fourth goal. The move started with Çolakoğlu getting a foot in to nick the away from the toes of an opponent and Sasha Arshakian getting to the second ball with a bone crunching sliding challenge. The Indian whirlwind picked up the pieces on the halfway line and pressed forward through a deserted midfield. Chandran continued a mazy run, beating two opponents to find himself through on goal. The dribble wizard eventually pulled the trigger to shoot, however, Galganek stood tall to save with his legs.
Still the danger refused to pass, as Bratniak seemed desperate to concede. Instead of clearing the ball, the visitors played around with it and lost it on the edge of the box. Silva intercepted well in the high press and Olusoji took possession. The Dragoons substitute laid the ball into Fuhaś, who shot first-time on the turn but hit the attempt straight at the Bratniak stopper.
Ooof – A Great Hit
As the game entered the final minute, Bratniak hit back to score the last goal of the match. With the Dragoons midfield non-existent, the visitors made good use of the space. Rafał Dąbrowicz received a pass midway into the Dragoons half and found time to turn and come forward. The Bratniak skipper worked the ball onto his right foot and struck a venomous effort from 20 metres out that flew over the head of Obyrtacz and into the net for 3-1.
The goal seemed to rejuvenate the visitors, who seemed to find extra gear as the seconds ticked by. Into the third minute of injury time, the Dragoons conceded a free-kick from shooting distance. Dąbrowicz stepped over the ball and elected to try and find a teammate, but overhit the ball out of play.
Soon after, the final whistle blew as the Dragoons ran out worthy winners. The victory sees the Expats remain in 5th place with 11 points.
A very pleasing win for the Dragoons, who never looked in danger of losing the game. The first half saw plenty of positives with quick passing and moving, getting the team into dangerous areas. Two long range goals saw the Expats comfortably lead against a team looking for damage limitation.
The second half performance saw the side stop moving the ball so well and a criticism would be a lack of a ruthless streak and the want to score the perfect goal too often. Football is a relatively simple game and it became a frustrating watch as the Dragoons failed to seriously punish their opponents, taking too many touches and not shooting when the opportunity presented itself.
Sometimes, it feels like the Expats drop down through the gears to match the level of their opponents. The Dragoons have a lot of ability in their squad but need to avoid complacency when they are on top.
Whilst it is good to score three goals, the only disappointment is that it was not more!
The Dragoons travel to Nowa Huta on Saturday next week to take on 3rd placed Wanda. The game will see the 3rd meeting between the two teams, with the previous two coming last season.
In the first game between the sides, Alessio Sassini capped his debut with an excellent hat-trick. Błażej Święcicki added a fourth late on as the Expats cruised to a 4-0 victory away from home.
Wanda gained revenge in the reverse fixture at Prądniczanka however, coming away with a 7-3 win. A quick start saw a mistake by the visitors gift Sassini with the opening goal for the Dragoons. An excellent volley gave Obyrtacz no chance and two long-balls saw the Expats punished further as Wanda went into the break 3-1 ahead. A terrible start to the second half by the Dragoons saw Wanda take advantage scoring four more times without reply. Emre Bezirkan grabbed a goal off the bench and Dani Silva scored a penalty late on, but it would be too little too late as the Expats suffered a heavy defeat.
Wanda have been in good form so far in their seven games so far this season. With 5 wins, a loss and a draw to their name, it will be a difficult afternoon for the Dragoons. Wanda are currently on a two game winning streak, scoring four in both victories over Juvenia Prandocin and Prądniczanka II.