Reds kick off season in style

Alba 0 PFFC 2

Ally, 12 September 2005

After an initial season of ups and downs, Philosophy embarked upon their second stint in the London League Premier division with more than a hint of expectation at what was to come especially from their opponents, League director Hany (‘Yours in football’) Ishak's herculean Alba FC. Last year Alba put 13 goals past a beleaguered and shell-shocked Philosophy in two games with only two goals in response from the men in red. This season, we hoped, would surely not be as bad against our bitter opponents. That rivalry dissipated somewhat due to the gulf in quality of the two teams last season but two years ago, the teams were evenly matched; Philosophy edging ahead by winning the first division championship. The match tonight redressed the imbalance felt last year with arguably Philosophy's most important and hard fought win in over a year.

Philosophy's line up was strong with Marco in goal, Damian and Filippo as centre backs with Dodo and Vipul at right and left back respectively, Marco and Kieran in the centre of midfield with Vito and Ally on the flanks and Clarkey and Mauro up front. The line up had everything; strength, experience, guile, speed and agility so confidence was high at the opening whistle. On the bench were Andy, Gibbo, Giacomo, Giovanni and Gonzalo, along with Cornish Al, back from his honeymoon looking fresh and ready for action.

Philosophy (playing in Pasolini Blue) started with more drive than Alba, dominating much of the early exchanges but again, the finishing touches to penetrating moves left a lot to be desired. The players could be forgiven for thinking time was repeating itself as the first half went on and the match continued on goalless but the strikers showed promise that a goal would come. Alba pushed forward at times but the superb play of Philosophy's back four, especially debutant Dodo meant they had a limited number of shots on goal. The no-nonsense defensive style of Dodo and Filippo was offset by the careful sweeping play of Damian and Vipul, demonstrating a wonderful balance of styles between the back four that could play a vital role in the forthcoming season. Any shots that did come through in the first half were either hit wide or parried by marco who was playing extremely well on his competitive debut. The first half ended goalless.

The talk at half time centred on the importance of keeping concentration and trying to push a little more to get the first goal. Philosophy opened the second half in an even more dominant style to that of the first. The amount of pressure put on Alba in the middle of the park was phenomenal and all four midfielders were chasing down their men often for the ball to break to Clarkey or Mauro to charge up the pitch but as yet, to no avail in terms of the end result. Kieran and Marco were marshalling the midfield with Alba unable to get a look in and Philosophy winning the vast majority of balls in the air and on the ground.

The Gaffer made two changes after 15 minutes of the second half with Al replacing Vito and Giacomo replacing Mauro up front. This added fresh speed and strength to the team and sure enough 10 minutes after the change, Philosophy reaped the rewards of their penetrative play with a goal. A strong move involving Clarkey and Giacomo culminated in the simplest of tap ins for Kieran on his return from Brazil only a few days previously: 0-1.

The relief was obvious and the team now went on to attack in waves of pressure but Alba came close from a free kick 5 yards outside the box soon after the goal. Again however, the stand in keeper Marco kept out the shot by tipping it over the bar and after the corner, the pressure was off. If there was to be another goal in this game it would surely have to come for Philosophy and when it did, the crowd went wild. It started with man of the match Clarkey taking the entire Alba defence on a wild goose chase before coolly cutting back for Giacomo to slide the ball in the back of the net: 0-2.

The remaining five minutes were mainly spent in Philosophy's half and the Gaffer made his final substitution: Gibbo on for Ally. There was no real danger in this final spell and before the referee had a chance to blow up for the end of the game, the lights went out for Alba, literally, as the pitch was plunged into darkness signifying an important 3 points for PFFC and the capture of the opening spoils of the season.

A wonderful start to the season then and a huge squad to choose from but if the large number of players gave the Gaffer a selectorial headache I'm sure he would say he'd like that very paradoxical of suffering to continue. The presence of so many players on the bench really helped to create a sense of support for the players on the pitch and team spirit is what this football club is all about. What struck me too was the fitness of the players. This performance could have easily been mistaken for one a few months down the line such was the level of fitness present in the squad. It seems the training in Regents Park and Putney paid dividends and thanks must go to Fil and Marco for organising a stringent set of training sessions in the summer. This club has come a long way from its beginnings over ten years ago and now seems to be getting the balance right between a highly competitive team with regular training sessions and meetings and cultural ambassadors of football with tours and trips abroad. This balance is essential and we have the right heads and hearts to maintain it. Enjoy days and nights like these and work towards their continuation. If not who knows how long it will last. A fantastic night.