Amid speculation of a media war brewing within the Viking media department, the team met at new sponsor bar ‘Cotton’s’ and prepared to head to PuJersey for the first game of the season. Going into the game, the Vikings had a team that, on paper, looked very dangerous. Unfortunately, like Belgium, having a good team on paper doesn’t mean shit and it ended up being a tight game, with many positives, despite ending in a disappointing 3-2 loss.
This week’s game statistics below have been kindly provided by the Vikings International Sports Correspondent Elliot Greer:
*Beers consumed by Elliot = 18
The Vikings began the game like a team with nothing to lose, which is interesting considering we lost almost every game last season. The fires were fueled by a great team talk from Gustav who mostly just reminded the team that we have loads of new players this season so we might actually be able to win. Sensibly, Alex also reminded everyone that the Vikings are a strong, fair team that shouldn’t complain and bitch at each other or the ref. It seems at that point Gustav had stopped listening to his fellow Swede as he proceeded to bitch and moan throughout the entire game.
Possession wise, the game started with the Japanese having most of the ball and passing it around well. However, their attacks mostly consisted of long balls which were easily dealt with by ‘The Angry Canadian’ Hope, Ruud, Alex and most incredibly…Martin Lambertsen. After a fair amount of back and forth the Vikings began to look dangerous on the attack. Ten minutes in, Gustav received the ball at the edge of the box and played it back to George who pulled off a meticulous toe-poke over to Jens who took it down and smashed a beautiful half volley straight over the keeper. 1-0 Vikings!
After going one down the Japanese began to up the pressure, in the words of Elliot Greer “Lambo gives the ball away again, Vikings are under pressure…the Japanese have realized a weakness and are attacking down the left towards the right back position.” Despite this, Lambo, with the help of his defence ensured the Japanese didn’t capitalize. The Vikings moved into counter attacking mode, with Magnus making some great runs, on one occasion only to be the victim of a brutal tackle which resulted in a yellow card even though the defender was the last man and he basically rugby tackled the big lad.
Eventually, Viking quality started to shine through with Aaron ‘the Ukrainian De Bruyne’ playing a great ball to Jasper who got around the keeper and got the ball into the box for Magnus to smash it into the back of the net. It was 2-0 Vikings!
After coasting for a good ten minutes, the Vikings were slammed back to earth when the Japanese took a short corner, resulting in the ball being lofted so high in the air that Tobias ‘Golden Glenn’ simply couldn’t see it. In true Viking style he promptly gave up, didn’t even bother moving and just waited to pick the ball out of the back of the net. Most incredibly, Jens managed to control that famous temper of his and only looked at Tobias like he wanted to kill him, instead of actually trying to.
This seemed to be enough to get to the Vikings unfortunately, and the Japanese got a second goal not long after when, after some scrappy play at the back post after a corner, Elliot states “a guy from team Japan just, like, nutted it in.” Tired legs were catching up to the Vikings but there was nothing to worry about as we actually had substitutes ready to go! The first half ended 2-2, leaving everything to play for in the second.
Of these substitutes, and much to the crowd’s delight, Fucking Chris managed to get on the pitch. Since Dragos made his disappearing act a few months ago, FC has started to play better, gaining the confidence he needs to score goals, make decisive passes and generally be good at football. Unfortunately, Dragos decided to come and watch the game, so after five minutes Chris faked an asthmatic fit on the pitch and managed to blag Coach into taking him off. Dragos was quoted as saying “to be fair, it was his best performance I’ve ever seen.” The Vikings didn’t need to fear though, as Prince Henry was soon on the pitch, beating defenders with his blistering pace. Not wanting to be outdone by FC, David lasted only two minutes, claiming a leg injury. The whisky he had before the game undoubtedly had nothing to do with it.
By now, the game was swinging in favour of the Japanese. They had a 22-man squad and were simply much fitter than the Vikings. The space between players became larger and the Vikings were mostly playing a chasing game. More subs were made, with American Aaron, Luiz and Tadi coming back on. Even FC, who had miraculously recovered from whatever Gypsy curse Dragos had put on him, dragged himself back on the pitch. Bringing on such great players was enough to tip the balance, until some fairly interesting decisions from Gustav and Coach led to FC playing left back and Aaron centre back.
The third goal came when a lapse of concentration led to another set piece for the Japanese. A goal mouth scramble ensued, with everyone in the box from both sides jumping, lunging, swinging legs, heads and, in Lambo’s case, hair at the ball to try and help their team. All except FC…as the ball was struck by a Japanese player towards goal, Chris rather nonchalantly called “keeper” and then just left it up to Tobias. After the game Chris said he’d read on Wikipedia that goalkeepers are supposed to stop shots, not left wingers.
Towards the end of the game the Vikings began to dominate, pressurizing the Japanese defence and looked likely to score. Up stepped playmaking obese wonder-kid George who, against the run of play, did the best through ball of the game, unfortunately in the wrong direction. Luckily, Alex and Tobias managed to stop the attacker from scoring, despite George’s best efforts. It was truly the worst pass from any game, on any pitch in Shanghai that day.
The last great chance for the Vikings came almost at the final whistle. Jasper did very well down the right and managed to get through the defence and up to the keeper. Taking note of his options he had:
- a difficult shot against a keeper, or
- a clear pass to Coach across the box.
Seeing that Coach would have had an open net and was set to score his first ever goal for the Vikings, Jasper did what any sane man would do and kicked it straight at the keeper. The ball came back to Ruud who connected with it, only for it to be stopped on the line by a defender. It was in all honesty; a great chance and the Vikings were unlucky not to get the draw.
Overall, it was a game with many positives. Not only because we now have some great new players but because we have an even better team spirit going into the season.
Man of the Match
In the end, four players got votes for man of the match. The three runners up were Alex, after a very solid display at centre back. Jens, who not only scored a great goal, but was instrumental in the shape of the team. And debutant Ruud, for a great game at centre back and spell in the middle of the park. The prize can only go to one person however, and with 12 votes that person is Magnus. He played a great game up front and actually managed, in his style of playing striker like a centre back, to get in more tackles than Martin, FC, David, George, Tadi, American Aaron and Luiz combined.
Despite a disappointing lack of fresh meat in the showers, the Vikings put on a cracking show for the bus driver on the way back to Cotton’s. The new nomination game, brain child of Martin and Lars, proved to be a success with two bottles of Jim Bean being smashed in about half an hour. Things got so exciting that poor, young Ruud got an awful case of cramp. Luckily for him, Jens was close at hand, and having lived with Hoejland for years, he knows how to give a great foot rub.
Don’t forget to watch Jay’s great video of the game!