A dull ninety minutes can be illuminated by a single moment of brilliance. No matter what else is going on there is always the potential for magic, though fans of certain baseball cap wearing managers would burn you as a witch if you relied on anything other than ridigity and organisation. All that is to say that while there may not seem to be a plethora of examples of the beautiful game to choose from on this brisk winter evening, there’s still something there. You just have to look hard enough.
One game played in all the high profile top flight divisions and that is where we make our first stop. Andreas Pereira, on loan from Manchester United no less, scored this belter for Granada against Las Palmas. We’ll already add him to the much vaunted list of kids Jose Mourinho has nurtured.
Elsewhere in Europe, it’s been a heady and incredible journey but the Atlantic Cup is coming to it’s closing stages. Oh, you’re one of the few people on the planet that’s never heard of it? Well if we’re honest, we’re not sure the players have either. Wikipedia tells us that it was a competition created by Stefan Schwarz and Brian Horne and is competed between clubs from leagues which do not operate in the winter months. The glamour! Imagine the breakaway European top division which keeps being scaremongered every so often. This is like the least sexy version of that ever. The rules themselves are a bit bonkers too, if you can decipher this from their official website. Anyway, AaB Allborg (of Denmark and drawing with Man United and celebrating like it was the greatest result ever) took on Djurgården of Sweden in what we think was the 4th place playoff. We might be wrong though. The game went all the way to penalties, which the Swedes won 4-1. Not only can we not wait for what’s to come, with this column we’re not probably the worlds foremost expert on the competition. We will wear that badge with pride. Below is evidence that we didn’t just make all this up. Or is it?
Now that we’ve used up all our sarcasm quota (well maybe not all), we head over to The Netherlands for today’s award. For those that know, the Dutch second division is a paradise of goals and madness. Without researching the actual numbers, we’re fairly confident that the average number of goals per game is somewhere around the fifteen mark. Tonight was no different. But there was a slight difference. Achilles 29 prior to their game against FC Eindhoven had twenty three less points to their name in the league than in their actual name. Six points, in January. Not even Crystal Palace are that bad. Then the unthinkable happened. Freek Thoone (he of amazing names) gave them the lead from the penalty spot. This was the first time they’d even scored a goal in over 1200 minutes. The dream was on. Then Rai Vloet equalised and it was off again.
Though they had been pegged back, Achillies would not be deterred. Imran Omar and Emir Smajic scored either side of half time to give them a 3-1 lead. Again, because this league is an absolute joy, FC Eindhoven came back. But there was one last roll of the dice. One last moment of magic. One last moment of Smajic. The 28 year old uncapped Swede-Bosnian may not find himself on the Ballon d’Or shortlist any time soon but for one night he’s brought a lot of joy for the fans of a club who havent had much this year. For that, we are proud to give him this award.