Sunday, July 20, 2008
FC Etzella Ettelbrück – FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast (13-07-2008)
It felt like it had been ages since I had made a groundhop. Moreover, as these are my last weeks in Europe, at least for the foreseeable future, the urgency was increasing and so was the urge. So, my loyal fellow-hopper JB and I decided that we would get the new season started with a top European game in the second round of the UEFA Intertoto Cup. Incidentally, this is also the last season of this European Cup for Losers, which never really took off.
After a tourist route through beautiful northern Luxembourg, we arrived in Luxembourg City, at about 17.30. Although FC Etzella comes from the little town of Ettelbrück, roughly 30 km to the north of Luxembourg City, and has it own Stade am Deich, it has to play its European games, like all Luxembourg teams, in the national stadium. However, as everything is small in Luxembourg, the national Stade Josy Barthel is all-seater but holds just 8,054 spectators, of which only a minority covered.
Although kick-off was 30 minutes away, there were only some 20 people in and around the entrance of the stadium, including a couple of policemen. We bought tickets for just 10 euro, which were for the covered stand, the only stand open to the public today. The tickets themselves were a clear product of low-budget creativity; i.e. cut and paste of logos from the various websites printed out at home on thick paper. ☺ When we entered the stand we saw a couple of Russian hang the one banner in the stadium.
I estimate that some 200 people attended the game, including at least 20 Russian supporters; I guess some local to Luxembourg. The to-me-unknown team of FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast (literally FC Saturn Moscow Region), from Ramenskoye, had won the first game with a convincing 7-0, and seemed set not to break a sweat today. FC Etzella must have been heavily disappointed, as they had gotten into the second round of the Intertoto Cup by eliminating Lokomotivo Tblisi (2-2 away, 0-0 home). Although they knew they were out of the competition, they seemed set at getting at least some result.
So, in the first half it would be mostly Etzella pushing, but not having the quality to truly pressure, and Saturn sleeping, yet having the quality to score at any moment. It would therefore also be the guests who create the biggest chances, including two shots at the crossbar! Still, half-time was 0-0 and none was really surprised by that.
After a mediocre and overprized German-ish sausage and some hanging around at the one bar open in the stadium, we decided to sit at the other side of the (one) stand for the second half. Here was only one Russian family, who also were the only ones to makes some noise. The second half would bring a bit more excitement, as the spaces became bigger and Etzella continued to pressure. Consequently, Saturn had again most of the chances, often reacting very fast to mistakes in the home defense. But after three good chances for the guests, the home team got what it deserved in the 70th minutes: 1-0 after a strong header from a corner kick.
Although this had no effect on the overall score, a defeat seemed a little too much for the players of FC Saturn. Although they remained slow and lazy, you could feel that they were a bit more agile. In the 77th minute the individual talent of FC Saturn produced the equalizer. Kovel, the attacker with the best technique and worst mentality, fired a free-kick from at least 25 meters into the far upper corner: 1-1.
While it initially seemed FC Saturn would use this goal to finish the game altogether, they soon slipped back into their earlier lethargy. Increasingly it became clear that both teams were happy with the 1-1 and the final 5 minutes were only played because they had to. So, 1-1 was the final score of the game, and 8-1 the overall score of the round. FC Etzella left the last season of the UEFA Intertoto Cup with its biggest successes in international football: three draws! FC Saturn will have to a lot more to get through the third round, where it meets VFB Stuttgart!
Although I always liked the fact that the Intertoto made sure that there were already official games in July, I cannot be really sad that the tournament is canceled. There is simply no real purpose. Let’s hope the UEFA will soon force all national leagues to become summer competitions, so that we can see real games in real nice weather!