*** FCKP II End The Season With An Excellent 3rd Place ***
Despite some strong performances in the top division on the previous match-day, including three clean sheets, FC Kickers Pufendorfer II ended up playing in the 2nd division for the final Bunte Liga day of 2015 due to a quirk of mathematics. Considering the well-known and tough opposition teams occupying the 2nd tier however, this was not so much a step-down in quality and more like a festive and fearsome meeting of old rivals, all gearing up for the final battle to end all final battles for all time. Of 2015. In the outdoor competition anyway.
As always on Bu-Li match days, a good start is essential in setting the mood for the competition. FCKP were granted this mercy thanks to an assured and competent victory over Muchas Maracas in the tournament opener. Some strong running in midfield from Jon Ruffer, Clement Adam and Ross Angus saw Pufendorfer dominate the midfield from early on, allowing room for their flair players to create some good openings. James Topping came close to opening the scoring when his clever, crisp strike from 20 metres out drew a desperate save from the Maracas ‘keeper, but only after a slight deflection had aided the net minder.
It wasn’t long before the mighty Black and Yellows finally did take the lead. This time it was a fine through ball from Adam which allowed bustling play-maker Hector Perdomo Nogales to race through and fire a powerful shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net just inside the penalty area. From this position of advantage, Kickers never looked back and saw the game out comfortably to get their first 3 points on the board.
Next up were Phönix Wartenberg who have proven to be difficult opponents in the past with their unerring ability to fight back from adversity. Pufendorfer were not to be denied, however, and the calm, determined passing game that they had employed in the first game soon saw them controlling this game too. Once again, the victory they achieved here was built on a foundation of strong defending and intelligence in possession. For attacking threats in this game, the inspiration came frequently from the very well-behaved crowd favourite Adonis El Hajj as his sexy through balls created havoc in the Wartenberg defence.
Despite their strong play, it wasn’t until 3 minutes from time that FCKP scored their winning goal. On this occasion, the goal came from an unlikely source as full-back Brian Leonard got the winner. With Phönix seemingly hanging on for a draw, the handsome defender controlled a pass and pinged a shot off the outside of his right foot that curled in off the near post from a full 20 or 30 metres out. It wouldn’t be a lie to say some of the FCKP supporters in the crowd were moved to tears at the beauty of the moment. It was enough to earn another three points for the Kickers.
With the momentum from the first two games and the booming atmosphere reverberating around the stands, it wasn’t a surprise to see Pufendorfer get another win from their third game too. This time the opponents were Traktor Berlin who are well-known for their hard-working attitude. Even playing as well as they were, FCKP were made to work hard for this victory themselves, and ace shot-stopper Bart Pyszczek was called into action a number of times to keep the score level at 0-0 for the first half of the game.
When they finally made the breakthrough, the goal was well worth the wait. El Hajj had been having another excellent game and it was his pass that set up Alejandro Marquez Cuerpo on the right wing. The feisty Spaniard was still some distance from goal and had a wall of Traktor defenders blocking his way. With a blinding flurry of footwork, however, the Electric Matador as he is known, threw at least 6 stepovers at the opposing players before leaving them in a confused heap, jinking his way through to slot the ball under the advancing ‘keeper. This brought a mighty Olé! from the FCKP fans and another 3 points for the team.
After having this overload of entertainment, it seemed only fitting that the next game ended in a tight 0-0 draw. The team that finally halted Pufendorfer’s winning streak were Freitag 08 who employed an impressive defensive system to flood the midfield and prevent FCKP’s fluid passing game. There weren’t many chances at either end so it’s safe to say that the real winners were the defenders from both teams who fought well to keep clean sheets.
At this stage, an attempt at the title looked on the cards for Kickers but they had yet to face two strong teams in Disko Partizani and SK Lazion. As we all know there are no easy games at this level. The game that turned out to be pretty-much a title decider ended unfortunately with a 1-0 defeat for Pufendorfer against Disko. The winning goal for Partizani came with a healthy dose of controversy as the FCKP fans behind the goal roared for a foul on defender James Topping as a corner kick was headed home. The goal stood however and, despite the complaints, Disko were tough opponents who fought well for their win.
With their momentum stalled, Pufendorfer showed great resilience to return to their confident, passing rhythm for the final game. Facing them were a very strong SK Lazion team who were finding some good form in the tournament. This was a highly entertaining and high quality encounter with both teams treating the crowd to some slick, incisive football. There were plenty of chances at both ends before Lazion eventually took the lead – an intricate passing move around the FCKP penalty area finally finding some space for a striker to rifle the ball home. A goal behind and with time ticking down, Pufendorfer had no option but to throw caution to the wind and stream forward in search of an equalizer. On one such foray, Lazion broke quickly on the counter-attack and exploited the space behind the Pufendorfer defence with an excellent through ball and long-range finish.
It was an unfortunate way to finish the day for FCKP but a great performance by both teams. The final standings saw Pufendorfer standing proudly in joint-second place – or in third place if you look at it different way thanks to another quirk of mathematics.
Bart, James (C), Brian, Nick, Adonis, Hector, Alex MC, Clement, Ross, Jon
Hector, Brian, Alex MC
Report by Brian Leonard