On a chilly and windy Saturday afternoon, PPR gathered before their impending match with Sabor a Lolas, brimming with confidence. The 9-0 destruction of London Svenska the week before coupled with the 0-5 scoreline the last time these two teams met gave rise to a bubbly dressing room before the game. The excitement was palpable with PPR seemingly rediscovering the team ethos they had in the first games of the season.
In protest against the economic inequalities across Europe, Sabor chose to change outside. The snub of PPR changing facilities seemingly lulled the home team into relaxation, culminating in the team emerging from the changing rooms with just 15 minutes before kickoff. Unfortunately, unlike the week before, the referee had turned up on time and PPR would be starting the game without having had a complete ‘Jackson-esque’ warm up. Fans were visibly tense at the kickoff.
PPR started the brighter team, demonstrating good passing and interplay between both wings and central midfield. The welcome return of Medings to the right wing was immediately evident as he linked well with Tomkins Jnr, Flynn and Green in the centre of midfield. Sabor were in all kinds of trouble as Barnes, freshly equipped with new techno-boots designed by NASA, joined in the onslaught. With PPR applying considerable pressure, both full-backs gained confidence and began to join in the attacks. Intricate triangles of passing culminated in numerous corners, free-kicks and chances being created in a first half hour completely dominated by PPR. One corner resulted in a trademark Gomme header which was whilst running away from goal, expertly guided towards the top corner only to strike the bar and be cleared. When Sabor did attack, the back four competently dealt with the threat offered. Goalkeeping duties largely involved taking goal kicks.
The first clear-cut opportunity came when a typical PPR attack from the left resulted in a fizzed cross to the back post where the front man Byrne was sprinting (yes sprinting!). With this newfound speed, Byrne easily reached the ball to head home. However, Byrne decided to exact revenge for the handled goal Sabor dastardly attempted to claim last time the two sides met, by punching the ball into the net. Byrne received a yellow card for his troubles and his ‘goal’ was disallowed. PPR needed to start converting chances to sure up this match...
Soon afterwards, the breakthrough came. An attack down the left saw Green put Barnes through on the left wing and hit the by-line. Barnes engaged the ‘super-swerve hyper-speed’ on the NASA boots to lash a ball past the Sabor keeper at his near post. 1-0 PPR. The crowd sighed with relief. PPR continued their pressure with any and all Sabor counter-attacks being easily broken down and dealt with. PPR took their lead into the half-time break.
The momentum was carried into the second half although, the game became increasingly niggley as Sabor became frustrated. The game descended into a period of disjointed handbags and tentative football. The ten minute period was summed up in a hallmark anger tackle from Flynn that cleaned out their bolshie centre forward who later tripped Gomme in the opposition box only for penalty calls to fall upon deaf ears. The second breakthrough came on 60 minutes when a Byrne corner from the right of goal was tucked home by the in-form Green. 2-0 PPR.
PPR got back to playing their football with the introduction of Goddard and Richardson on 55 and 63 minutes respectively. PPR attacked with renewed vigour with neat triangles through the midfield once again cutting Sabor apart, allowing Byrne to net to make amends for his earlier misjudgement. 3-0 PPR.
An increasingly demoralised Sabor lost a degree of interest in the game despite an initial flurry of enthusiasm following two substitutions of their own. A shredding run by Richardson went round two players before being kicked off the ball by a Sabor central midfielder who had been left in his wake. As the crowd roared with outrage, Tomkins Jnr waded over to offer his opinion on the foul, primarily using his chest as a battering ram. Fortunately a Sabor player gave him a cuddle to calm him down before initiating a roll around on the ground as is Spanish tradition. Despite his protestations of "he kicked my Jonny", Tomkins Jnr was viewed as the antagonist and was shown the way to the dressing room. PPR had 17 minutes to see the game out with 10 men.
Having just the 10 men seemed to matter little as PPR continued to play on with the same aggression and confidence that had seen them build the 3-0 lead. Shortly after the dismissal, PPR killed the game off as a cross from Byrne wide on the right found the tireless Flynn at the back-post waiting for the ball to drop from the heavens onto his head. 4-0 PPR and game over. The game ended in good spirit with all ill feeling being forgotten as the final whistle sounded to rapturous applause from the PPR faithful. That result sees PPR secure top spot in their champions league group and go through to the knockout stages with one game in hand. A job well done.
PPR march on in both cups and hope to carry their recent form into the league next weekend.
Man of the match: James Flynn
Dick of the Day: Nils Tomkins