FC. Saint-Michel A
Saturday night, Ladies II arrived in Woluwé-Saint-Pierre, ready to take a revenge on the previous game against Saint Michel, which ended in a 2-3 defeat. With support from Sephora and Cintia kindly helping out after having already played a game the same day (!), and after a quite “muddy” warm-up in the dark surroundings of the pitch, the game started with a slight delay around 20:30.
Despite a motivated squad and encouraging words by Rebby from the very beginning, the start of the game did not work out quite well for the ladies in green. In the very first minute, Saint Michel managed through a quick and proper combination game to score a first goal. 0-1, what an unlucky start…
Back in place, FC Ireland tried to keep heads up and to not get destabilised – neither by this early goal against them, nor by the trainer of Saint Michel, probably one of the loudest one in the Ligue.
While managing to keep the score throughout the first half, the green ladies could not make use of some (scarce) opportunities they had to level the tie. Issues in positioning and a lack of the necessary aggressivity limited the number of chances to score and gave Saint Michel too much space for some dangerous chances. In particular the right wing of Saint Michel, with a strong and extremely fast number 70 and an always very well-placed number 40, challenged the FC Irlande ladies quite a lot. But a stable defense and a confident keeper allowed to maintain the score so that, after 45 minutes, the game was still at 1-0 for Saint Michel, with hopes for FC Irlande to equalize and turn the game around.
In the break, a mixture of encouragements and points to improve: Fight for the ball, defend yourself, be mean and aggressive. Briefed with that and with some changes on the pitch, the second half started.
There was more fighting and a strong will to get at least one point out of this game. But the connection between defense, midfield and striker did not work sufficiently well to create real, dangerous occasions. Despite more ball possession for the Ladies II from FC Irlande, Saint Michel managed to have some very good occasions which however never ended in a goal. Indeed, great saves from Mariana but also a serious lack of accuracy in the shots from Saint Michel made the game finally end with a 0-1 defeat.
Certainly frustrated but not less motivated to further improve and bring a victory home the next game, the green ladies had to leave Woluwé without the expected point(s) and without the revenge taken… At least, there were some tasty sandwiches provided for free by Saint Michel after the game, which served as a small consolation.
It was THE game to win for FCI Ladies II. Facing Saint-Michel, a team with almost identical stats, both teams having gained 7 points in their previous 7 battles.
A strong squad of FCI was set to play the 4-3-3 with a full bench ready to support, and heroic Flavia, who volunteered to go in the goal in the absence of Mariana.
A long and structured warm up and encouraging speech from the coaches and captains followed just before the kick off.
It is hard to tell if it was due to the sudden first minute goal of Saint-Michel or other factors, but Ladies II could not maintain focus, gain or keep the ball in the first half. The girls went into duels halfheartedly and gave a rather timid impression as a team. Saint-Michel smartly exploited the passiveness of the opponent, earned the phycological advantage by showing stronger presence, and even though they did not create many dangerous situations, the first half of the match ended 0 – 2.
The second half started somewhat better for green, with Ladies II getting more into the game. Even after Saint-Michel’s 3rd goal, the girls in green kept fighting. The 1 – 3 was set by Jenny after a good run and dribble by Francesca, who gave the assist in the 75th minute. 5 minutes later Elena scored Ladies II’s second goal of the game by a well timed and great looking header after a corner.
Sadly, the remaining 10 minutes were not enough to turn the game or equalize and the match ended with a bitter 2-3 score.
Ladies II have talent and have shown this in previous games. The ladies will work very hard in the next weeks as they will face three top opponents in a row now. Improving technique, tactics, communication, and further nurturing team spirit and fighting spirit will all be key to face the best of the table. No doubt that the players, if they want it, are fully up to this challenge.
However, this game against Saint-Michel, an opponent with equal records, will remain a missed opportunity. They simply wanted it more.