Blue Stars 2009: Day 1
Posted by nickogs20 on May 20, 2009
It would be fair to describe United’s first day of this year’s Blue Stars as something of an up and down one. With a win, a draw and a crushing defeat, the Reds’ hopes of contesting the final tomorrow afternoon are hanging by a thread.
Things got off to a flyer for Paul McGuinness’ side at the Buchlern Sports Complex in Zurich, a well-deserved 2-0 win over the hosts FC Blue Stars giving the Reds the perfect start to their campaign. The goals came from Febian Brandy (from the penalty spot) and Joshua King (an individual effort), although there is some confusion as the official tournament website doesn’t actually list King as a starter or used substitute. Hopefully that can be cleared up in due course.
Less than an hour after the conclusion of that fixture the Reds were in action again, taking on Fenerbahce on pitch 3. Despite taking the lead twice through Rodrigo Possebon and Brandy, the Turkish side twice levelled to earn a 2-2 draw, the second equaliser coming in the last minute of the game. A second straight win would have left United extremely well-placed to qualify for the final, and while a draw was far from a knockout blow, that late setback may well be something the squad look back on as a turning point.
A far more conclusive setback came in the final fixture of the day, as United took on last year’s runners-up FC Basel looking to really take control of Group B. Their opponents had only managed a pair of draws in their previous games so the Reds will have been confident, and even after going a goal behind early on, they got themselves back on level terms through Possebon just before half-time. That goal came in the 18th minute, but that wasn’t the only action in those sixty seconds – Febian Brandy also saw red for a challenge on the Basel goalkeeper and the Reds were reduced to 10 men for the second half. The Swiss side were ruthless in taking advantage of that and fired four goals past a helpless Ben Amos to register an astonishing and, for United, devastating 5-1 scoreline.
Group B Table (End of Day 1)
1. Basel – Played 3, 5pts
2. Flamengo – Played 2, 4pts
3. MUFC – Played 3, 4pts
4. Fenerbahce – Played 2, 1pt
5. FC Blue Stars – Played 2, 1pt
All this leaves United’s bid for a 19th Blue Stars title looking like something of a long shot. To finish in top spot, a win over Flamengo tomorrow morning is an absolute must – a task not made easier by the suspension of Brandy and his most obvious replacement, King, who picked up a second yellow card in the Basel debacle. Should the Reds overcome the odds and beat the side from Rio, they will then need the Brazilians to hold Basel to a draw. A narrow Flamengo win in that fixture could still see United finish top if the Reds had beaten the Brazilians by enough goals to improve their now poor goal difference, but that seems somewhat unrealistic.
There are plenty of other permutations to consider as well, with none of the five sides yet out of the running for top spot and a place in the final. The other group is even tighter, with just a point separating the five teams, and Real Madrid currently propping up the table. Everything seems to point towards an exciting second day being in the offing, and – as today – we’ll have regular updates via Twitter and a full report at the end of proceedings.
United Lineups (as per the official tournament website)
vs Blue Stars: Amos; Evans, Dudgeon, Wootton, Moffatt; Stewart, Norwood, Drinkwater, Brady (Ajose 25); Brandy, James
vs Fenerbahce: Amos; Eckersley, Dudgeon, Evans, Brown; King, Ajose, Brady, Drinkwater; Possebon, Brandy
vs Basel: Amos; Dudgeon, Brown, Evans, Eckersley; Possebon, James, Drinkwater, Brady; Brandy, King
Booked: King, James. Sent Off: Brandy