Real Tuesday 3 - KARO Oldenburg 3
The Real's first foray into Europe ended in a well deserved draw against KARO Oldenburg. While the Real dominated the first half - thanks, in no small part, to the pace of Jay, Fahd and Calder - the Germans came back into the game in the second period, their discipline and controlled passing gradually unlocking the home defence.
It was an unfamiliar looking Real team that took to the Spartans Astro for the game. Thanks to an unprecedented number of call offs, Bill was forced to cast his recruitment net wider than ever before, pulling in Mike from his Wednesday 5s game, Cubby and Bert from his Thursday game and Craig, Kevin and Adam from his Friday works game.
The arrival of Fahd on the Saturday morning was both unexpected and highly welcome, as that meant we could enjoy the luxury of two subs. Cubby started on the left wing, Mike and Bert took centre midfield and Calder made an unfamiliar start on the right side, with Fahd (carrying an injury) partnering Jay up front.
The absence of big Graeme forced Bill into starting alongside Sheepy at centre half, with Lee and Adam at left and right back, respectively. Dave Murray pulled on the goalie gloves for the second 11s game in a row, no doubt casting a wry glance at his left back as he did so!
The Real started confidently, knocking the ball about without ever threatening the KARO goal - hence the shout of 'Just shoot, baby!' from Bill around the 10 minute mark. Mike was one of the first Real players to oblige, though his shot went wide. The teams then traded corners, with Dave saving well when KARO swung the ball in, before a KARO player fired a shot just left of the post from outside the Real box.
KARO took the lead after 15 minutes, one of their front men hitting a left footed shot that squirmed under Dave's body and trickled over the line.
With the Germans still celebrating their rather unexpected lead, the Real hit back within two minutes. Bert was the scorer, hammering in a beautiful shot from the edge of the box.
Dave was then pressed into action, turning a shot from the KARO 77 out for a corner, before Mike put the Real ahead, slotting home after some dogged play from Jay in the box had left KARO keeper Bernd stranded.
KARO were shocked by this turnaround, and started pressing the Real defence once again. A long range shot then left Dave with no chance, and the score at 2 all.
Things now began to get a wee bit feisty in the middle of the park, with Adam inflicting a life threatening arse injury on KARO striker Björn after putting in a well timed sliding tackle.
Calder then put in a robust challenge near the centre spot that left one of the KARO players writhing; referee Brian asked Andy to apologise, prompting an outburst of 'It's not f*cking TIDDLYWINKS!' from our mercurial winger. But apologise he did, thus avoiding a ten minute cool down period on the sidelines.
Calder nearly made the most of this reprieve shortly afterwards, gliding past three men as he cut in from his wing and bore down on goal. His shot was, however, wide - a bit like the one from Cubby shortly thereafter.
There was a change to the Real lineup late in the half, with Craig replacing Bert in central midfield.
If possession in the first half had gone maybe 60:40 in favour of the Real, then it was probably 70:30 for KARO in the second period. Despite regular substitutions - some of them involving bus pass holders - our visitors kept their shape and started to find gaps between Sheepy, Bill and Dave. A succession of corners and not-far-away shots duly ensued.
Jay scored early in the half to make it 3-2, but it was pretty much one way traffic thereafter, Dave tipping a close range shot onto the bar and making a fine save at point blank range. KARO also triggered several stramashes in the Real box, with Bill and Sheepy taking it in turns to mis-kick or guddle the ball before hacking it clear.
There was still some activity at the other end, with Calder slamming in a fine overhead kick from 35 yards, the KARO keeper tipping away a dangerous cross from Jay and the Real winning a string of corners.
Lee also managed to inflict another life threatening arse injury on one of the KARO players after putting in one of his trademark robust challenges - it did look like a sore one, to be fair, with the KARO player being all but carried to the sidelines to sort his bones back into the right order.
The KARO boys also seemed to be finding the Spartans pitch a tad abrasive, with one player - Helmut, AKA 'Dutchman' - angrily pointing to his bruised and bleeding legs after he had been 'eased off the ball' by Sheepy. As Bill pointed out afterwards, it was probably just as well that Big Graeme wasn't playing, after all!
Kevin replaced Cubby during the second period, with Calder moving to the left wing to allow Kevin the right. Like all of the Real substitutions today, this seemed to go well, with minimal confusion arising as a result of the change - if only that was always the case!
The KARO equaliser came around the 80 minute mark. One of the KARO strikers cut in from the right and headed across field; Bill tracked him, then shouted to Sheepy that the player was entering his zone of control. Mike was, however, already busy keeping another KARO striker honest, which meant that he had no time to react to this request. This left the KARO striker ready to run in on goal when the ball came to him - which it duly did, care of another fine ball played to the edge of the Real box.
The striker coolly slotted the ball under our stranded keeper to finish off a fine move - albeit one that would probably have come to nothing if Bill had just tracked his man!
The Real continued to press for a winner, but couldn't break down the KARO defence. The KARO keeper did well to save a right footed shot by Mike, then blocked another shot from Craig after he had been put clean through on goal. Bert also came back on to replace Mike, who had put in a superb shift.
At the final whistle, Brian asked if we wanted to go to penalties; given the nationality of our opponents, 'Nein!' was the only sensible answer, so the game ended a draw. As the away team, KARO were therefore awarded the Interburg Challenge Cup - apparently, the first in their history!
Thanks are due to all of those who turned out for the Real in this game. Despite the scratch nature of our side, we actually put in one of our better 11s performances against a good KARO team.
It would have taken a blowtorch to get the smile off Fahd's face at the end of the 90 minutes, as he has originally only intended to make a cameo role for 20 minutes. Plus he managed to wear a German top during the game, then whipped it off afterwards to reveal he had been sporting an England shirt underneath - what a wean! Another fine performance from him, in any case.
Craig, Bert and Mike J put in a great shift in midfield, an area where KARO were particularly strong - take a bow, Christoph, Helmut, Rolle and Sammy - while Calder and Cubby provide steel and creativity on the flanks.
Lee put in his usual 'auxiliary keeper' performance at left back, while Adam was rock solid on the right, communicating with the players around him and doing the simple stuff well. Sheepy was, as usual, a rival for Adam in the solidity stakes, reading the game well and organising the backline.
Thanks must also go to KARO for being such fine opponents, and for the t shirts and Schnapps that they shared with us before and after the game. Plans are already underway for us to play them in Oldenburg, possibly in February 2012. Watch this space for details of that game - and of the 'Kohlfahrt' that might go with it!