Unlike most end-of-season matches, this match was played under dreek, caledonian skies but the match itself was anything but grey with three unstoppable goals punctuating 93 minutes of exquisite passing from both sides. AFC Sunderland are a lot like us. Lee Catermole is Murphy like in his reading and control of the game and Dong-Won Li's back pass to Bardsley would have looked in place if executed in white and black. Their approach is like ours but without our surfeit of international class.
Someone explained to me that Leslie was all about training to win individual battles and I think it showed by this time last year with all the short trianglular ball movements to create space. Today's Maarten Jol style of totaalvoetbal showed much more five and six man diagonal ball movement starting from the backs. Some have already noted Diarra and Dembele's midfield excellence, but I noticed early on that in contrast to Diarra's early matches, where he played the Michael Essian role behind Murphy, today Murphy played behind Diarra and tried to feed him through balls in attack. In the early second half, Diarra and Dembele began switching vertically as well. MON's strangely witless riposte was to bring on Bendtner to try to get in behind the Thames barrier though it never seemed likely Sunderland could establish centre forward dominance. The move seemed to concede the tactical advantage to Jol to bring on Frei's pace, for which Sunderland's only rejoinder was to consistently foul. Despite our numerous chances, including a brilliant foot save by Mignolet, the Mackem's could and should have shared the points had Frazier Campbell not shot wide low and left of an open goal once Bendtner' side footed pass put him through.
My MOTM was Moussa Dembélé not so much for his goal as for his peerless ball winning. The player he reminds me most of is Zinho, the fulcrum of Brazil's World Cup squad. I recall him being nicknamed something akin to the human rotary cleaner for his ability to cycle, gain possession and when dispossessed, gain it back. I think it was meant derisively by some Brazil supporters at USA '94 who preferred a more Socratic method. One can not help but to behold Moussa's elegance in movement and when he scored Maarten Jol celebrated as though it was his son's goal.
I pleased me to hear the Hammersmith end singing for Maarten Jol in the second half, for the first time I had attended since Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk back on a wet night in August. First, I genuinely like his personality. Sarah Brookes' pre-match interview consisted of perhaps four questions and Jol chundering on as if he were a fan describing the match to another fan who also had not attended, and in that simile hides a modicum of truth. Second, I thought he would eventually be successful once able to implement his 4-3-3. Coming into the role as he did little more than a fortnight before our first Europa League match however meant having to win immediately with players and a style he had inherited. It was for him both a Hobsons choice and a choice of Hodgsons (players and tactics).
Today marked the final page of Roy Hodgson's Fulham. Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. From today onward, "Jol is het nieuwe Fulham."
The future is bright. The future is oranje.
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