Syrianska 0 – 1 Assyriska: Derby Delight, Othuroye rule Södertälje

[youtube][/youtube]Where o where to begin… The build up to the game was less animated than usual. This can be attributed to the fact that, for the first time in the derby, the 3 points on offer far outweighed local bragging rights in terms of importance. Both teams are in contention for promotion with only a handful of games to go, so it was all about business. Sure, it was wonderful to prove that Assyriska are still the big boys of Södertälje and that Othuroye will always prevail over any pseudo-ethnic groups trying to steal our name, culture and history, but the most wonderful thing was the 3 points. If you had given me a choice of two wins against our previous two opponents and a derby loss (6 points from 3 games) or what transpired today coupled with what has already occurred (4 points from 3 games) I’d have chosen the former. For you see, Assyriska has always had bigger fish to fry. In 7 days we will all forget this, whereas if the Syriacs had won, they’d forget to show up for their next 3 games. Like Sir Alex Ferguson puts it, they have the small team mentality while we focus on the grand scheme of things.
So, without further adieu, here is the wonderful moment of joy. Xhevdet Llumnica scoring what proved to be the winner after a fine assist from the always excellent Martin Lorentzson (how we will miss him next season) barely after kick-off:

Man of the match:
Llumnica – got the goal, but worked ever so tirelessly for almost the entire match before he was replaced late on. He looked dangerous every time he received the ball in the final third, and was unlucky not to score another in the first half after being put through one-on-one by General Marklund.

Honourable mentions:
– Lamine Conateh was solid as a rock, the scorpion king showing his experience from previous derbies to marshal the defense brilliantly alongside Bergman.
– Eddie Moussa for hacking down a SFC player miles off the ball when the referee wasn’t looking (received a yellow card, but it was worth it’s weight in gold).
– General Goran Marklund for making a heroic return to the starting XI, he was well in the heart of all things dangerous for Assyriska
– Nafver has been criticised by everyone, from myself to IK Norrkoping’s ball boys, yet today he performed admirably on the left wing, and sent in some delightful crosses which should have been put away.
– Oscar Berglund. Mountain. The Impenetrable Wall of Nineveh. He has to be at least 7 ft 4. Beaten only once (but saved by the cross bar…in injury time), he was just a giant.
– Everyone else was also pretty sensational (Samuelsson, Lorentzson, Ostlundh and Toompuu). Had it not been for Goran Marklund lacking full-match fitness and the whole time wasting paradigm, coach Karlsson would not have felt then need to make any substitutions.
– C Sports, as I saw a record 60% of the match uninterrupted.

Assyriska (442)
Berglund – Lorentzson, Conateh, Bergman, Samuelsson – Moussa, Ostlundh, Toompuu, Nafver – Llumnica, Marklund (c)

Subs: Pereira for Marklund 68′, Besara for Llumnica 83′, Bengtsson for Moussa 89′

Syrianska (4-2-3-1)
Frealdsson – Demir, Skenderovic, Elia, Ozdemirok – Hagernäs, Velic – Zatara, Kunic, Massi – Mensah

Subs: Zivkovic for Hagernäs 56′, Christoforidis for Zatara 62′, Kanga for Kunic 73′

0-1 Llumnica

The 90+6 minutes:

First half
As usual, I was having problems with seeing the match. It resembled more of a slideshow for basically the entire first half. As you can see, Llumnica finished off a nice team goal to put the Assyrian warriors ahead. I was unsurprised to see only a small number of Assyriska supporters in their allocated stand (I would estimate it at about 2,000). Either way, we were all sent into euphoria as we got off to a dream start. All week, I was harping on about our new coach and the subsequent pick up in form this brings. For once, my foresight proved to actually manifest to reality (the opposite tends to always happen). The generally cagey, feisty and messy nature of the first half added infinite importance to the early goal. Subconsciously, although we continued to attack, playing a stylish and attractive game, I felt this goal could be enough to win the match.

Syrianska were stunned by this early uppercut, and Assyriska dominated the opening periods. Like I said, it was a cagey start, but not without chances. Llumnica found himself through one-on-one, but with all the time in the world to round the keeper or conjure up a simple lob, he timidly sidefooted the ball straight into the relieved arms of SFC’s goalkeeper. A glorious chance wasted, but essentially the only time Llumnica put a foot wrong. In their only chance of the half, SFC’s leading scorer Mensah went close, nodding a pretty free header wide after a delightful cross from the left. Not much else occurred of note, other than some tasty challenges by a fired up Assyriska team – Llumnica hacked down an SFC player just over the halfway line and was lucky to escape with only a gult kort (yellow card), while Bergman (or was it Lorentzson?) left Robert Massi lying in a painful heap after a ball-and-all tackle for which the referee erroneously awarded a free kick. Massi spent the rest of the first half limping and pulling painful facial expressions for the camera.

Second half
Mysteriously, the entire second half streamed perfectly, much to the detriment of my heart as it was a true derby match, with the pendulum of momentum swinging ferociously and chances, drama, cross bars, hyenas and last-ditch tackles a plenty (I made one of these up). Fortunately the action on the pitch was fair and honest, with no really malicious or dirty play to be (except for Eddie Moussa’s off-road kicking and tripping, but that’s why we all love him). A few minutes into the second half, and merely seconds after Goran Marklund sent a shot in the general direction of SFC goalkeeper Frealdsson, Bergman put his body on the line to block a goal-bound effort deep in the Assyriska box down the other end. Meanwhile, Eddie Moussa was breathlessly charging up and down the right wing like a bull chasing the blood of his arch nemesis – the matador – and this continued right up until he was substituted. Moussa was a vivid example of the passion and fight Assyriska supporters have been calling for from the players. Moments later I begin questioning the sanity of the referee and his assistants as Llumnica is taken out by a messy sliding tackle in the box, with the ball thus rolling off for a corner. SFC anticipated a corner, AFF demanded a penalty, the referee awarded a goal kick to my bemusement. Madness.

A few more moments later, and Goran Marklund is put clean through on goal by a long ball from Bergman, and after shrugging off a petty SFC marker, smashes a left foot volley goalwards, only for it to be repelled by a solid Frealdsson (random note: Marklund is the general). Assyriska defender Frederik Samuelsson decided to take time wasting to a whole new level by trying to hit a car on the freeway behind the goals. This enterprising effort in the 54th minute was unsuccessful (random note: do football associations around the world include ‘lack of vision’ as part of their job descriptions for match officials?). 55th minute, and Ostlundh nutmegs an SFC midfielder in a moment sure to end up on Minutes later, and Eddie Moussa cements himself into Assyriska folklore by tripping/kicking an SFC player off the ball. Although the referee was oblivious to this, Eddie in all his excitement failed to consider the presence of the linesman (about 3 metres away) and duly received a yellow ticket for his moment of madness genius.

By about the 58th minute, I began to notice the match heading down the path of the first half – scrappy, tense and devoid of any real tempo. Proving me inevitably wrong was General Marklund in the 62nd minute, wasting a glorious chance to put the game away. Nafver, having a fine game on the left wing, delivered a pinpoint cross to the far post for a patiently waiting Marklund, only for captain fantastic, with the goal at his mercy, to head wide past the far post. At this point I was beginning to worry. Wasted chances are always an ominous signal of things to come, especially when you’re Assyriska. Tiago Fereira replaced Marklund in the 68th minute, and took less than 60 seconds to display his class, delightfully lobbing the ball to an onrushing Nafver, who expressed his gratitude by volleying wide (clearly intending not to out stage Tiago). My heart began to beat slightly (extremely) faster.

SFC’s best chance hitherto went to Mensah, heading closer to the corner flag than the goal. Syrianska were being blanketed by Assyriska’s high tempo and aggressive pressing, with only Robert Massi able to find any room to threaten our defense. The game’s dynamic changed completely after about the 70th minute mark however. We officially stopped offering any attacking play, and Syrianska began an all-out siege, but a siege that was dramatically repelled by a determined defense and the impenetrability of the wall one Mr Berglund built over the course of the game. With, Zatara and Kunic withdrawn, Syrianska’s supporters began looking forlorn (no really they were, I didn’t just add that for rhyming purposes). They seemed amazed that their incessant “Suryoyo” chant wasn’t having the desired affect (nonetheless, they kept at it to their credit and despite it’s obvious futility). For the last 20 minutes plus injury time, though, Syrianska would threaten our goal at unhealthy levels (unhealthy if you are an Assyriska fan).

Christoforidis, on for the useless Zatara in the 62nd minute, threatened to single-handedly change the game and thus alter the universe beyond restoration. I refer to the 73rd minute and the minutes that followed, in particular, where Christoforidis was twice put clean through on goal, only for the linesman to rule that he was offside on both occasions (the second was clearly onside) [random note: What a wonderful set of competent officials]. It was probably 3 times actually, but I don’t recall as I was recovering from a heart attack and having my life flash before my eyes. It was only by intervention from God that we didn’t concede, so by the 76th minute I was adamant that Oscar would not be breached, and I began thinking of titles for my victorious blog (call it tempting fate if you will, care factor zero). Syrianska continued to pile on the pressure, and Assyriska simply stopped playing football to desperately cling onto the match. The infinitely dangerous Christoforidis was denied by the Great Wall of Nineveh, Oscar Berglund in the 81st minute, and this was followed by Mensah somehow shooting wide from 20 yards. Something happened after that but I simply cannot remember as I was recovering from heart attack #2. Oscar Berglund saved us again in the 87th minute, this time after a powerful drive from substitute Kanga. From the subsequent corner and ensuing goalmouth scramble, I experience heart attack #3. By this point, the Zelge supporters were going ballistic, with Tiago acting as the chief cheerleader, gesturing to them and getting the party started way too prematurely.

Despite the 4th official indicating a minimum of 3 minutes of time to be added on, some feigning of injuries and cruel luck (for us) meant that this would only be over after an extra 3 minutes on top. In the midst of this 6 minutes of injury time (I cannot recall the exact point) something happened – the heart surgeons of Sodertalje suddenly began gearing up – Syrianska’s Denis Velic struck the Assyriska crossbar with a header. The ball looped over the helpless Berglund (the rarest of sights) almost in slow motion, bounced off the cross bar and into the welcoming feet of an Assyriska defender who was able to clear the ball to safety. It was clear – our goal was leading a charmed life, and no Syrianska player was destined to score today. Assyriska held on for a remarkable and heroic derby victory (after losing the last 3). Although Syrianska played well for the final 20 minutes and probably deserved something out of this game, the callous nature of history means that only the result will be remembered