Hello guys, how’s it going? Welcome to a brand new Monday Recap on the South American Journeyman? How are things over where you’re from? Over here normality is slowly creeping in, which I’m not sure it’s a great thing (people become careless), but we endure.
When we last left, Cienciano had just finished a rather disappointing first half of the season, having just picked up the pace enough to give us a chance to make up some ground in the second half… boy did we have a ride in store. Let’s see how it went!
Round 2… FIGHT
I said last time everything was in place for us to have a good second part of the season, or a terrible one, but in all truth, everything started rather well. Starting the Copa Bicentenario against rather weak opposition, which in turn allowed us to rotate a bit and give minutes to players who hadn’t been getting any. With a solid couple of wins vs. Alianza Universidad and Unión Huaral, a draw vs. Sport Ancash sealed the deal.
Immediately after that we managed to start the league with a couple of wins, but soon trouble started. I had said previously that our good results on the Copa Sudamericana had somewhat fueled our season early on as results on the local competitions faltered. However, that (combined with our run on the Copa Bicentenario) also meant that we had to keep on playing 2 match weeks throughout August and September.
Our key to sustaining the streak going was some heavy rotation; my idea when building every squad is to be able to (to some degree) choose a line-up with the skill to make our plans happen regardless of who is selected. That way, we effectively had built up a “league team” and a “continental team”. That way, we managed to go two whole months with just one defeat, a last minute loss to surprise early leaders, Deportivo Municipal.
What is that? Oh, it’s the last hurdle
A while before we took on the last couple of months in the season, I sent my mates on Discord this photo. It was right after my last match of that session (a 2-1 win over Sport Boys on the Copa Bicentenario QFs). It may have stenched of over-confidence but it truly looked like we were in for a great ending to the year.
It all started to fall apart in the Copa Bicentenario semis. After a short war of words with recently appointed coach Gerardo Ameli, we got an excellent draw in the first leg only to totally collapse in the second match, a totally out of character performance that saw us concede 3 goals in 25 minutes.
Regardless, our league form remained untouchable with just a single defeat, and after wins vs River de Montevideo and Santa Fe of Colombia, in late September we got to face Vitoria Sport Clube from Brazil in the Copa Sudamericana Semifinals.
It was arguably our toughest rival all competition long but I fancied our chances. We had been surprising rivals all tournament long so it was business as usual. The first leg was played in Brazil, at the Barradão. It was familiar ground, having met them plenty of times back when we managed Confiança; it was there that we lost a Copa do Nordeste semi vs. them. It was also a familiar stage; just two years prior we had fallen there with Nacional vs. Argentinos Juniors. The scenery was set then for a double revenge.
Flashbacks, so many flashbacks
The match proved tricky. Both sides played rather bad matches. We got ahead early through the man of the competition, Nicolás Figueroa. They missed an early penalty, we missed a late penalty. It was all equaled in the 76th minute via their star centreback Cléverson Felipe. It was not the result that could be,but hardly a bad one. If we could mount a better match back at home, just holding to that draw would get us to the final.
Just seven days later, on October the 1st, we faced them again. We sent out the top eleven but for Julián Lopéz who missed out through injury. Once again it proved a rather dull match. Not many chances, some ours, some theirs, but nothing else. When the highlight started in the 94th minute I expected it just to be the last play of the match. It was a corner, theirs. The ball went into the air and 21yo midfielder Kemerson Moura Maia headed it home on the far post. Vitoria goal, in the 95th minute. The referee gave us a couple minutes to scramble a play together but it amounted to nothing. I was speechless. We were out, in the semifinals, by one goal… again.
With that finished, all we had to play for was the league. With 6 matches remaining, we were tied on points with Universitario de Lima, with a goal average advantage. We went on to win the first two but got a surprise defeat vs relegation strugglers Universidad de San Martín in the 4th to last match. That gave the advantage to Universitario but we had one last card to play: the last match of the season was us vs. them, in Cuzco. A win and the Clausura title was ours. We proceeded to win the following two matches (including 70th minute resistance vs UTC with 10 men) to set up the winner takes all deathmatch.
Now, we had some heartbreak in this chapter, let alone this series, but I seriously can say that I was not shocked at all when we proved to be an absolute no-show for that match. Universitario ran us through, took a 1-0 win and should have had more. I guess it had come to the point where I could simply not handle any more disappointment, so I expected nothing.
The league finished like this. Our excellent second part of the season (points wise at least) got us a Copa Libertadores spot but for some reason I just can’t celebrate. I keep going back to that screenshot I sent, so filled with promise, yet so unfulfilled.
Next season will prove a tricky one. Teams will now know we’re a force to be reckoned with. There was also a chance of board, so expectations might also be bumped. I’m absolutely gutted for now, but, as always, a new transfer window brings new hope.
I’d like to announce also this will be the last Monday Recap. As I said, I love putting these together but the weekly schedule is proving a bit too much for this stage of the FM cycle and also for me personally. This series will go on, at least until we achieve our objective or FM21 arrives
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