Last time out I went through our ins, outs and expectations ahead of season three kicking off. Give that a quick read if you missed it.
This post will take you through the first four months of the season. Let’s go.
It’s fairly typical of us to finally get a win on matchday one of a new season and then follow it up with a draw and a defeat (against a newly promoted side again nonetheless). In truth, those first three matches weren’t anything special. Grønli assisted both goals from corners for our central defenders before helping himself to the third in that win before another corner assist for Venâncio’s second goal in as many games to put us ahead against Sporting. Of course they would take a point off us despite another poor start to their season, after their shocker last season. We battered Chaves at home but lose out to a sucker punch just before half time. These are the matches we need to win when we’re in control.
Grønli’s form last season and start to this season earns him an international call up and cap for Norway. A special moment for the youngster who’ll hopefully have another great season for us.
We went from a loss against newly promoted Chaves on matchday four to the jubilation of beating AVB’s Braga for the third straight match against them. It’s always good to get a Bragaing rights (™ FromElevenOne) in the Minhoto Derby, with Guillermo Celis powering home a screamer after we’d gone 1-0 and then 2-1 up before being pegged back. It’s a much better first month of league action than last season.
We started our Taca da Liga 3rd phase group stage off perfectly with a thumping win over Belenenses, our best performance so far this season. Moreirense and Sporting join us in Group A, we’ll do well to match our consecutive semi final appearances so far.
We’re in Group J of the Europa League alongside FC Kobenhavn, Bursaspor and Italian giants, Milan. Our first group game in Denmark was fairly even but we found ourselves staring at a 3-2 defeat going into the last five minutes. It wouldn’t be the first time this month I’d go very attacking and manage to get a result. It was a warning shot for what was to come for the rest of the month though.
Feirense downed us at home which meant that both newly promoted sides had beaten us on our own turf in the first five league matches of the season. Similarly to the Chaves match last month, we completely dominated this one and just couldn’t score. I had to step away from the game for a bit of a cooling off period, fuming didn’t cover it.
Two draws rounded off September, with a boring 0-0 against Belenenses, where I pretty much set us out to not lose after that Chaves reverse, and an end-to-end 3-3 thriller against Estoril at home. This was the other match this month I went very attacking in order to save a result. We found ourselves 2-0 down after six minutes and 3-0 down at half time. It was still 3-0 with 15 minutes to go until Davidson scored to pull one back and the mentality switch occurred. We looked brilliant, it usually never comes off but has twice for us in the space of a few weeks. Hopefully I don’t have to pull it out many more times this season…
Milan visit the D. Afonso Henriques and leave with all three points. Franck Kessié and Gini Wijnaldum secure their win with a couple of long range efforts, with us leaving them all the time in the world to pick their spots. Nando Cardozo hit a consolation in that one and a double in the next on our way to our first win in five matches. A welcome and important three points in the league which takes us 7th after eight matches.
That win saw Edgar Branco make his third start of the season, rotating in for captain, Rafa Soares. The rest ahead of the international break did Soares good, as he went on to make his debut for the Portuguese national side.
He has the accolade of being the first newgen to break into my first team squad at Vitória, but he unfortunately isn’t a homegrown Guimarães lad. He was snapped up at the beginning of last season from Campeonato side, Real, for £145k. He’s developing very nicely and should come on leaps and bounds with some first team football this season too as our back up left back. I’ve got high hopes.
Wins in the Taca de Portugal 3rd round (including a landmark first goal for Geelmuyden, who’s in and around the first team this season), our Europa League group and Taca da Liga 3rd round group took us to four straight wins and three clean sheets in a row. The wins in the group stages saw us sitting well in both, while we’ll face current Primeira Liga leaders, Maritimo, in the 4th round of the Taca de Portugal next month. Going into our last match of the month, away at the Estádio da Luz against Benfica, I had no expectations. I wrote off my side at my own peril.
Another superb defensive performance means it’s now 316 minutes since we last conceded. A goal and an assist from Grønli’s free kick prowess sees us leave Lisbon with a brilliant three points. Our unbeaten month in the league, from two matches, is enough to seal me my first ever Manager of the Month award! What a moment, another accolade to add to my cabinet alongside the Manager of the Year and Fair Play Awards from season one.
Our training facility upgrade completed this month and now sees us training in superb facilities. This is a another big step forward for the club to enable us to develop our players to the best of their abilities.
An away draw in Turkey followed by an efficient home win against Kobenhavn sees us qualify for the knockout stage of the Europa League with a game to spare. Luckily that match is against Milan in Italy next month so we go there with no pressure on us to play for a result, they’ve already qualified as group winners.
It’s still relatively early in the season but I treated the Cidade de Guimarães derby against Moreirense as a must win league match. They were sitting two points ahead of us in the league having played a game more ahead of our fixture. Kelvin’s first goal for the club, a 93rd minute free kick, secures the win and takes us up to 6th place in the table. We’ll take it.
Ahead of that Kobenhavn win we managed to overcome league high flyers, Maritimo, in the 4th round of the Taca de Portugal. I wasn’t too impressed with our ability to stay tight and keep them from scoring but we completely dominated possession and luckily were able to turn that dominance into some goals. Big Toni Borevkovic headed home the winning goal from yet another Grønli set piece. The Norwegian is now deemed a wonderkid and is in the discussion to win European Golden Boy, albeit up against some other quality talent in Fiete Arp and Pietro Pellegri.
Similarly to the Moreirense game earlier this month, the Nacional one to round off this first portion of the season was huge. They’ve started the season well and were sitting two places and one point ahead of us in the league going into this one. It wasn’t a classic but Kelvin’s third goal of the month and a first Vitória goal for the returning Ryan Gauld (he was given a month’s leave of absence to recover from homesickness) secured the vital win.
After a shaky start to the season we’re now sitting well placed to achieve our aims, with a game in hand to take us 3rd if we win it. Porto and Benfica don’t look as invincible this season compared to the previous two. They’re leading, but it’s much closer than it has been at this stage before. Sporting are nowhere near as bad as they were last season and could be a danger in the battle to finish best of the rest behind the top two.
What contributed to our good run of form? I did change the static CM(S) role in my central midfield two to a Mez(S). It’s slightly more dynamic and gives us something extra going forward. However, I’ve spoken before about being a Morale Manager more than anything else sometimes and I feel it played a part in the early stages of this season. Form took an upturn as soon as a few of our unhappy players from the summer, and their supporters around the squad, backed down on their demands and decided they were happy to remain at the club for the time being. Plus, Grønli went on a run of 12 assists in 10 matches. Outrageous form.
December and January will be as busy as ever with matches coming thick and fast alongside some potential business in the window. See you next time out.
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