It’s time to start the music, it’s time to light the lights. It’s time for my FIRST title challenging season AND my first EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN!!! We start the season at home to Vojvodina. Cardoso makes his debut, but Ilic, another defensive reinforcement from Partizan, only makes the bench. It’s a strong side that lines up in the same shape as I used to success with Feniks.
MATCH DAY!!!! It’s not been often in my career, so far, that my team has been an overwhelming favourite to win the game. Red Star live up to their rep though, chalking up FIVE chances in the opening twenty minutes. NONE of them are on target though, and it takes a midfielder to show our wayward strikers the way! Milosavljevic lays the ball off to Campar on the edge of the Vojvodina area. He takes one touch and replicates is effort from the last friendly!!! 1-0 Red Star! Just past the half hour, Simic stings the palms of the Vojvodina keeper from close range, then five minutes before half time, Ilijin latches onto a through ball from strike partner Simic and the youth team graduate fires home A PROFESSIONAL DEBUT GOAL!!! 2-0 Red Star! The final few minutes of the first half are ALL Red Star, almost adding a third. The ref calls time and it’s near total domination from us.
SECOND HALF It takes just FORTY SECONDS FOR RED STAR TO HAVE THE BALL IN THE BACK OF THE NET AGAIN!! BJEKOVIC LIFTS A DEEP CROSS TO THE BACK POST WHERE IT’S MET BY LEKOVIC. THE CENTRAL DEFENDER CUSHIONS A FANTASTIC VOLLEY IN AT THE FAR POST……BUT IT’S RULED OUT!!! LEKOVIC STARTED FROM AN OFFSIDE POSITION!! There’s no change to the flow of the match. Mijailovic, Lorenzi and Campar all force saves from the keeper, but there’s no additional goals in the second half and Red Star run out comfortable winners. FINAL SCORE 2-0!!
64% possession and holding the opposition to just the one shot on target makes for a good start to the campaign.
Attention now turns to my managerial debut in a EUROPEAN COMPETITION!!! We’re at home against Moldovan side Milsami Orhei in the Europa Conference 2nd Qualifying Round. The squad list is finalised and we’re good to go.
MATCH DAY We’re favourites. The pre-match teamtalk drills this into the players, and we start the match like we believe it!!! Baba Rahman is fed a ball down the left in the fifth minute. He gets to the by-line and fires in a low cross that’s met at the near post by ILIJIN!!! 1-0 Red Star!! We stay on the front foot and Campar forces a good save from a free kick in the 10th minute. Five minutes after that and we extend our lead!! Rahman again is the architect. This time it’s an early cross into the path of ILIJIN again. He rounds the keeper and from the tightest of angles slots the ball into the unguarded net!! 2-0 Red Star! The opening twenty minutes has been played almost completely in the Milsami half, but the third goal doesn’t come until five minutes before half time. CAMPAR, who had set his sights with the earlier free kick attempt, fires un UNSTOPPABLE free kick from fully thirty yards!!
The keeper makes a dive for it, but can only get fingertips to the ball. 3-0 Red Star!!!
Milsami start to have their attention drift to half time, but in time added on, ILIJIN completes a FIRST HALF HAT-TRICK!!! He’s sent scampering after a long ball by right-back Bjekovic, and fires a first time shot in at the near post!!! 4-0 Red Star!!! The ref finally calls time on a first half that has seen Red Star control everything and deny Milsami even an off target shot.
SECOND HALF The half time talk is nothing but praise. I’ve never had a team, outside of preseason friendlies, dominate a match so much. We come out and continue as we left off, there’s no early goal though and as the hour mark comes it’s a triple substitution as Lorenzi, Stankovic and Mijailovic replace Simic, Matic and Stanic. There’s no goalmouth action though until the 70th minute, Baba Rahman gets his hat-trick of assists, after a fashion, as his quick turn in the box sees him tumble over an outstretched leg and the ref points to the spot!! CAMPAR confidently places the ball on the spot and takes his run up……left footed…….AND BURIES IT LOW TO THE KEEPERS RIGHT!!! 5-0 Red Star!! We close things down after the fifth to keep things fresh for the league and the match ends with no more action. FINAL SCORE 5-0 RED STAR!!
We controlled the game from first whistle to last and the round is settled before the even get to the second leg!
Slavko Ilijin is named man of the match for his hat-trick heroics and if he can keep that sort of form up then the 19 year old in for a glorious breakout season.
We’re in for a very strange game next. It’s a trip to Feniks Arena and will be making use of the away team changing room for the first time!!
The new manager has, obviously, imprinted his own tactical outlook on the team but it’s nice to see 8 of the predicted eleven are players I used myself.
The recruitment hasn’t quite finished yet.
More midfield reinforcements arrive in the shape of AC Milan’s Croatian Marko Bulat on loan. He’ll go straight into the starting line-up at the expense of Matic. That’s the only change from the demolishing of Milsami in midweek.
MATCH DAY Last time out in the league Feniks were on the business end of the 5-1 hammering against Cukaricki and we go all out to better their score. Ilijin and Campar both have chances in the opening 10 minutes and a goalmouth in the 15th minute sees Ilijin, Simic AND Milosavljevic all have attempts cleared off the line or come back from the woodwork. The opening half plays out like a training match. We rack up 12 attempts on goal but our finishing is woeful with JUST THE SINGLE EFFORT ON TARGET!! Simic picks up a knock as the ref’s whistle brings the first half to a close. He’ll be replaced by Lorenzi after the break. Campar moves into a more advanced position as we shift into the narrow diamond and we in search of the opening goal.
SECOND HALF The players retake the field with my bemoaning of their lack of cutting edge in their ears. It take less than two minutes for us to craft ourselves a gilt edged chance. Bulat sends over a low corner that is controlled by Cardoso. He’s bundled into from behind and the ref points straight to the spot. BULAT himself gathers the ball and steadies himself from 12 yards. It’s a right footed penalty……..THAT IS BURIED LOW TO TOROMAN’S RIGHT!! 1-0 Red Star!! Just past the hour mark and a lightning fast counter attack from Red Star sees Ilijin AGAIN blaze an attempt over when well placed. Just as the visiting fans start to worry about the single goal advantage Lorenzi outpaces the Feniks back line as he races onto a long clearance. He rounds Toroman and strokes the ball into the net……WAIT THOUGH……the assistants flag is up……VAR takes a look……BUT THE GOAL IS AWARDED!! 2-0 Red Star!! The goal wakes Feniks up and just five minutes later they pull a goal back. Aleksic takes a deep free kick aiming for the far post. Rosic comes charging out of goal to claim it but gets caught under it. The ball drops at the feet of LEVICANIN and he has an empty goal to finish into. 2-1 Red Star and game on!!!! We don’t crumble though, if anything the goal pisses us off. In the five minutes after the Feniks goal, Ilijin cannons a shot against the cross bar. Lorenzi has the ball taken off his toe by Toroman, and Stanic is foiled again by the in-form Feniks keeper. Then, with the clock running down, ILIJIN finally gets his goal and the two goal advantage is restored. Milosavljevic feeds him in the area and his snap shot is past Toroman before he even registers it’s been hit!!! 3-1 Red Star! The ref calls time and, despite the late Feniks rally, it’s another dominant performance.
A huge THIRTY-THREE chances underlined our control, coupled with the 58% possession. It keeps the undefeated run to the season going, there’s four of us with two wins out of two.
It’s the second leg of the Europa Conference qualification next. We’re 5-0 up and it’ll be a chance to rest a few players and give starts to others. Rahman makes way for youngster Mirosavic, Lekovic drops to the bench and allows Kovacevic to earn his debut and Lorenzi replaces Simic.
MATCH DAY With the game won already I’m not really looking for anything special here. Once again we stamp our authority on the game early on and camp ourselves in their half. It takes until just before half time though to make the breakthrough. Campar the creator, as he feeds Lorenzi 30 yards from goal. he turns on the afterburners and leaves the Milsami defence for dust. The keeper races out but the shot is fierce and flies past him!! 1-0 Red Star! That’s all she wrote for the first half, and although we’ve stifled the game out of the opposition, we’ve managed just the single goal.
SECOND HALF The restart changes nothing with regards to the flow of the match. Milsami defend, Red Star attack. Then a strange thing happened. Milsami start to grow into the game. It start with a couple of chance and ends with Chiriliov crossing for Rogac to tap in from a yard out!!! WAIT THOUGH……VAR IS LOOKING AT A POSSIBLE OFFSIDE IN THE BUILD UP……..It’s ruled out!!! Rogac was offside as the cross comes in. Still 1-0 Red Star! That’s the last action of the match, and a thoroughly professional performance sees us into the hat for the next qualifying round. the draw is made and it’s Slovenian side Olimpija Ljubljana.
July is in the books and it’s a 100% record in two competitions. League wins against Vojvodina and Feniks has allowed me to settle quickly.
August is going to be……BUSY! Five Preliminary Stage matches and and next round of the Europa Conference Qualifying. Hope my squad players and up to scratch!!
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