yellow

it was all yellow

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There aren’t many weeks where you get to be part of the ‘Yellow Wall’, go to the outposts of Mossley and Darwen, watch an international friendly between Argentina and Italy, before rounding it all off in the beautiful town of Harrogate. That was my week though.

yellow wall

I am old enough and lucky enough to have once stood on the Kop at Anfield. Done the Stretford End too and the Kippax. All pretty special. One of the few things left on my ‘to-do list’ was to visit Signal Iduna Park (or Westfalenstadion without sponsorship) and be part of the hosts incredible ‘Yellow Wall’.

Westfalenstadion has been the host to some incredible times, with a capacity over 80,000 and the largest terrace in Europe; the near 25,000 capacity Sudtribune. This is the ground where Liverpool beat Alaves 5-4 in the UEFA Cup Final, Scotland played Zaire here in the 1974 World Cup and Italy knocked Germany out of the 2006 World Cup in the Semi-Final. Not a bad history that is it?

An early morning express train from Cologne to Dortmund, the ground is a 45 minutes straight forward walk from the train station, just follow the crowds. Once at the ground, the sight is yellow wherever you look. For such a large ground, weirdly the turnstiles are all at the North End and then you make your way to whatever part of the ground you are in.

The standing areas are made up of individual blocks/pens, however they are strictly stewarded to make sure that the correct numbers go into the correct pen. It works, it works very well FA. Bring it back. Please.

With the atmosphere building towards kick off, the last 15 minutes before the teams come out was brilliant. A rousing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” just before the sides emerged into the sunshine.

When we got underway it was Borussia who took control, Chelsea loanee Batshuayi hit the post within the opening 60 seconds, in fact the opening 45 minutes was pretty much all one way. That the score was only 1-0 at the interval was done to lax finishing and some desperate last ditch defending. However, the goal had a moment of true class, a corner on the left wing was played into the near post at pace by another Chelsea ‘reject’ Schurrle, Batshuayi’s run gave him space and a deft flick with his right boot took the ball past Tschauner in the Hannover goal.

Dortmund didn’t have it all their way in the second half and as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes both the team and their fans started to tense up, in fact it was the home fans who looked to drag their heroes over the finishing line in the end with their rousing songs. In the end the solitary goal was enough for the 3 points as the hosts revival under coach Stoger continued.

My German adventure was over, back to Blighty.

seadogs manchester adventure part 1

Following a home game on Saturday, Scarborough Athletic had to make the trip to the suburbs of Manchester 3 times in 5 days, nigh on 700 miles of travelling. Hopefully the east/west split next season will assist to make weeks like this a thing of the past.

The travelling did not do them any harm on Tuesday, they dominated Mossley from the word go, Grimsby Town loanee winger Wright was the main threat, he tormented his marker all night. It was from the right that Athletic’s opener came from, Valentine being on hand to put the ball over the line. A bullet header from striker Walshaw doubled the advantage before the break. It should have been more.

It was just after the hour, Walshaw practically walking through the home defence to get his second and his teams third. A late penalty brought Mossley some consolation, though to be honest a 1-3 scoreline was flattering to them.

matthews hits 4?

Does it always rain in Darwen? My fourth visit and it has rained every time. It also rained goals for Northwich Victoria and in particular Matthews. This match was over in the first 30 minutes, the visitors at that point were 4-0 up and in cruise mode. Debutant Halsall opened the scoring on the quarter of an hour mark, I thought he also scored the second a couple of minutes later. The NWCFL website gives it to Matthews.

If the goal was Halsall’s then Matthews opened his account five minutes later to make it 3-0 and another five minutes after that he made it 4. At this point there was a feeling of wondering at just how many Vics could score. Their foot came off the pedal slightly and they toyed with their hosts for the remaining hour.

A fifth was added with 20 minutes to go. Matthews got it. Now we just need to clear up, did he get 3 or was it 4?

good & bad

Friday was a rare opportunity to do something unusual for me, an international friendly. Argentina v Italy at the Etihad.

A night of complete contrast. For a friendly I thoroughly enjoyed what happened on the pitch, both sides showed a level of skill and technical doings that Southgate’s mob cannot attain. Really enjoyed it, liked Lanzini on the night in particular, Argentina deserved winners.

Off the pitch was awful. Huge queues to get in, how on earth do they get 50,000+ in here for a game. Good job we arrived at 6:45, 30 minutes to get in. No programme. £5 for a hot chocolate & diet coke. Probably a good job there wasn’t a programme.

However, the worst bit were those in attendance. Is this what a modern day popular event is like. People taking selfies from start to finish, rarely watching the game and do not even get me started on the Mexican Wave. In the end I was glad Messi didn’t get on the pitch, it would have been just stupid.

yorkshire yellow

I finished my week off with another one that has been on my to-do list for far too long, Harrogate Town.

A pleasant train journey over to Harrogate, via Leeds, and a relaxing 20 minutes stroll to the CNG Stadium. I must say at this point that everyone I spoke to from the club was very friendly and helpful, a credit to Harrogate Town FC. I would also recommend ensuring you are hungry when you arrive, club caterers Burgers & More offer an excellent choice of scran.

Getting underway in the sunshine, this was a game that Town should not have too much trouble with, Trinity struggling at the opposite end of the table and their new boss Sinnott didn’t even get a honeymoon period when he recently took over.

Early exchanges were fairly even and the first chance of the afternoon fell to Trinity, quite how you do not score from a 3 on 1 breakaway I do not know, but Gainsborough managed it, Belshaw saving from Jarman. As we approached the 20 minutes mark Town took the lead, Knowles setting up Emmett who fired past Ravas , 1-0 to Town.

Town looked to stamped their authority on the game, Ravas saving from Knowles, but Trinity would not lie down as Belshaw save from Hinchcliffe, the game opened up, end to end stuff until the break.

Following the tea break Thomson hit the post before Trinity must have thought they had equalised on a couple of occasions, Belshaw saving from Jarman, quite how he kept out the follow-up I do not know, this was followed minutes later by a header from a corner being cleared off the line by a falling Leesley.

Trinity were on top, but then as this game does, they paid for not taking their chances, Beck turning in a Burrell cross from close range. This game can be cruel at times. Trinity were beaten, their players looked a tad fed-up with that goal and it was Town who finished the stronger. Whilst Harrogate deserved the win, I think a 2 goals margin was flattering.

The return journey was just as pleasant. A great day out.

stats ‘N’ stuff

games: 4 (+ 1 friendly which I don’t count)

goals: 12 (+2)

total att: 82,889

milestones: Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96; highest ever attendance – 81,360 / total attendances past 500,000. AFC Darwen v Northwich Victoria; 300th goal of the season – Matthews or was it Halsall, who knows? Harrogate Town v Gainsborough Trinity; 10 games since a 0-0.

totals – all-time

games: 485

goals: 1650

total att: 549,592

female officials: 14

red cards: 102

penalties: 149

0-0s: 13

highlight of the week: Has to be being part of the yellow wall. Not every week that you get a chance to do something like that. Incredible.

 

 

 

fussball. zweiter teil

What a game!

F-T: Borussia Monchengladbach 3 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH  3  TSG 1899 HOFFENHEIM  3

BUNDESLIGA

Stadion im Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach

Att: 51049

Gate € 41.50

Programme € n/a

Saturday and it was time for my first ever taste of Bundesliga. What a way to start.

Opening my hotel curtains to snow was a bit of a surprise, however I was soon wrapped up and heading off into Cologne city centre for a mooch around. In temperatures below freezing it does not take too long before you are heading into a coffee shop for some warmth.

I was soon on the train to Monchengladbach, €16 each way for first class bought on the day seemed good value and I was on my way heading through a number of towns and cities I had never heard of before, arriving in Monchengladbach just over an hour later. Being a little early I decided to walk up to Borussia-Park, google maps taking me along back streets and parks passing a number of brilliant sculptures.

As the stadium came into view, I could also see the nearby Warsteiner Hockey Park, quite impressive for a hockey stadium, and home to the wonderfully named American Football team, Monchengladbach Mavericks.

Getting closer to Borussia-Park, I started thinking back to the team of the 70s, Berti Vogts, Rainer Bonhof, Allan Simonsen and Jupp Heynckes, what a team. There have been a few decent ones since too, Martin Dahlin, Marco Reus, Patrik Andersson and Oliver Neuville to name but a few. Not too shabby a list that.

After a visit to the club shop it was time to go in and as nice as Borussia-Park is, I am envious of anyone who managed to get to Bolkelbergstadion before the move. Looked a great place.

Due to Stuttgart winning the previous evening there was now a gap between the two league positions, Borussia occupying 10th, their visitors 3 points ahead in 7th, both sides still hoping to close the gap to the places for European football next season.

As the teams came out a handful of Hoffenheim fans to my left  making a fair amount of noise, trying their best to drown out the home faithful, I was beginning to notice a bit of a tradition at games in Germany, Van Halen’s Jump appears to be a firm fans favourite.

Borussia with a number of injuries were relying on another of Chelsea’s ‘rejects’ Eden’s younger brother Thorgen Hazard. His constant moving and probing was very much a threat to the visitors, who in turn had a forward line made up of ex-Premier League players, Gnabry of Arsenal & West Brom fame, his partner, Kramaric once of Leicester City.

Whilst the hosts started the better it was Hoffenheim who took the lead, the first corner of the game, swung in by Kramaric was met by the head of Hubner, his header gave Sommer no chance. Hazard continued to probe, and minutes after the goal Hermann headed too close to Baumann, but the Hoffenhein keeper still had to produce a good save.

Drmic replaced the injured Bobadilla, another casualty for The Foals, recent form for both the substitute and his side did not bode well. Cuisance and Wendt both missed the target when they should have done better, but nothing on Kramaric, who missed a golden chance to make it 2-0.

Just after the half hour and it was 1-1. A Cuisance through ball for Drmic caught the forward flat footed, Baumann thinking the striker was going to get to the ball was more prepared to block than collect, the ball bouncing up off the keeper, onto the strikers arm, the bounce taking the ball past Baumann, Drimic rolled it into the unguarded goal. 1-1. Or was it? My first experience of VAR. After a minute or so the goal was confirmed.

The Foals had their tails up , just before the break Hazard fired just over, Hermann forced Baumann into another fine stop.

H-T: Borussia Monchengladbach 1 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 1

After surviving the cold for 15 minutes we got underway again, Hazard scuffing an effort wide as the hosts controlled the early exchanges, it was from yet another attack that the visitors broke away and regained the lead. Kramaric playing a lovely through ball for Gnabry to run on to Hofmann catching the striker, penalty given. Step up Kramaric, good strike 2-1 with a little over 30 minutes still left.

The hosts looked shocked, Hoffenheim confident, and wilst their defending was not always textbook it was looking effective, that was until the 72nd minute, with what was about to be a brilliant 20 or so minutes. A good build up led to a superb ball by Hofmann, Stindl’s run was perfect, he was in space, he turned, he scored, 2-2. Though parity was not to last long.

Less than a minute later, Hofmann was again central to the build up, turning into the referee, who superbly tackled the midfielder, the ball breaking to Uth, he fed Grillitsch he fired across Sommer and Hoffenheim were back in the lead.

Borussia kept going, they probed at the visitors defence, Raffael had a shot charged down, Elvedi had a header saved by Baumann, the keeper was earning his corn. Nordtveit, another ex Premier League player, West Ham, came on for Hoffenheim, before his side hit The Foals on the break and Schulz smashed an effort against the bar, This was brilliant stuff.

Stindl went very close in the last minute as Borussia continued to plug away, a corner in the last minute found its way to the far side of the box, Raffael drove the ball cross the six yard box and there was Ginter at the far post to turn in a third equaliser for the hosts. And still the hosts pushed forward, Hoffenheim defending with everything they had, but even then they could have won it, Kramaric forcing a great save from Sommer.

What a game!

F-T: Borussia Monchengladbach 3 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

I decided to head back to Cologne from Rhedyt Station. Google maps telling me it was nearer than Monchengladbach. It may well be, but if you are making this journey do not follow this app. When all the locals start to turn off and eventually you are the only person heading along a path it is for a reason! I managed to somehow avoid mud and fences before finally getting back to tarmac. Crisis avoided I was soon on the train.

Again, the cathedral was imposing upon my arrival, all lit up and the bells ringing away, quite incredible.

Tomorrow was Dortmund. If it was half as good as today it was going to be special.

FACTS

Games: 481

Goals:  1638

Grounds: 225

Games since a 0-0: 6

Milestone: Total attendance for the season have now gone past 300,000

Random Fact: My 148th penalty. The 101st to hit the back of the net.

fussball. teil eins

As the final whistle went, Viktoria were probably a tad relieved as I would bet the hosts had mixed feelings, a point away at the league leaders is never to be sniffed at, but they came oh so close to getting all 3.

FC VIKTORIA KOLN  1  WUPPERTALER SV  1

REGIONALLIGA WEST

Sportpark Hohenberg, Koln

Att: 1183

Gate € 15

Programme € 5

When Mrs Chion said she wanted to do some decorating and wanted me out of the way, who am I to challenge being sent away for the weekend. First thought, where do Ryanair fly to that’s cheap, Cologne it is. Well it might be, let’s look at the fixtures, all 3 Koln teams at home. Booked.

Fortuna at home Friday, Viktoria  on the Saturday and FC on the Sunday. Then plans changed. First of all I was offered the chance of another game on the Sunday with a one off experience. So FC was off. Then Viktoria’s game was switched to the Friday. Decision to be made, Viktoria winning by the sheer fact there ground doesn’t have an athletics track around it.

Mr O’Leary’s airline dropped me at Bonn Airport, I honestly cannot remember going to an ex-Capital city before, certainly one that had been changed relatively recently. Train to Cologne and out of the station to one of the most breathtaking sights ever. Gary Langley described  it in a tweet as off the scale, you are not wrong there sir. A 20 minute stroll later and I was at my hotel.

Once sorted, it was back off to the centre and to catch the number 1 tram out to Sportpark Hohenberg. Alighting at Frankfurter Str. the ground was a 5 minutes stroll through a park. I had already purchased my ticket over the interweb and was soon inside as the rain started to fall. After purchasing my programme, I found my seat, directly behind the hosts dugout and settled in for the evening.

Viktoria were sitting pretty on top of the West Division of the 4th tier of German football, their opponents not too far behind in seventh, 10 points adrift but with a game in hand. Wuppertaler’s fans who had made the journey were making theemselves heard pre-match and as the sides came out they turned the volume up again, flares and fireworks followed. Cannot beat a bit of pyro can you?

It was the hosts that started the brighter, testing Mross early on before they took the lead in the 8th minute, the ball working its way to the on rushing right back Lang who unleashed an unstoppable drive past the visiting keeper, 1-0 to Viktoria. All this did was wake WSV and they brought themselves into the game fairly quickly looking dangerous on the attack, especially down their right wing. In the 20th minute they had the ball in the net with a header from a corner, the referee ruling it out, I have no idea what for, but he was a fair few yards closer to the action than I was.

Both sides continued to threaten for the rest of the half without seriously testing the opposition keeper. Overall Viktoria slightly shaded the opening 45, but only just

H-T: FC Viktoria Koln 1 Wuppertaler SV 0

If the hosts had the better of the opening 45, then it was the visitors who had the better of the second, in fact in the end, it was only a fantastic save from Patzler that earned them a point.

WSV started on the front foot and had a go at the league leaders from the off, they built the pressure up bit by bit, but Viktoria were resisting and looking dangerous on the break. The visitors using both wings as the hosts used their pace, it was a contest that was opening up more and more.

The visitors must a thought that it really was not going to be their day when a looping cross from Heidemann was left by Patzler, the ball bouncing on top of the bar and over, much to the relief of the hosts bench. The away fans didn’t have to wait too long for a goal though, just minutes later Kramer turned a Dowidat cross past Patzler leaving the keeper wrong-footed and stranded to the spot, 1-1, it was no more than WSV deserved.

Both sides went for it, with play moving quickly from end to end, it was Wuppertaler who came closest to winning it right at the death when an effort from Wirtz rolled agonisingly wide.

As the final whistle went, Viktoria were probably a tad relieved as I would bet the hosts had mixed feelings, a point away at the league leaders is never to be sniffed at, but they came oh so close to getting all 3.

F-T: FC Viktoria Koln 1 Wuppertaler SV 0

Out into the chilly Cologne evening and retrace my steps and tram journey back to my hotel.

Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

FACTS

Games: 480

Goals:  1632

Grounds: 224

Games since a 0-0: 5

Milestone: 1st ever match in Germany, my 10th country.

Random Fact: This was the 6th different country of my season, in order, Scotland, Serbia, England, Poland and Wales leading up to Germany.