Wed. February 16, 2022
Champions League - First Knockout Round First Leg
Dover (5th in Barclays Premier League) vs. Anderlecht (1st in Belgian Pro League)
Crabble Athletic Ground, Dover, UK
Betting Odds: Dover: 5-4 (Favourites) Draw: 11-5 Anderlecht: 7-4
Past Meetings: 0W 0D 0L
We are shown great respect in being favoured over Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht today. They are coming off their first loss of the season in all competitions (!!), a 1-0 defeat to Lokeren, the third placed team in their league. Anderlecht have won the Belgian Pro League an incredible 11 of the last 12 years with the only blip being in 2019 when they finished runners up. They've got two dangerous strikers and both are players I've looked at buying in the past: Chiquinho is a 25 year old Belgium international with an incredible 31 goals in 37 appearances this year. He's big AND fast and my scouts love him. They also have a dual threat in Said Henni, a speed demon who can play striker or left wing with equal aplomb. He has 11 goals and 9 assists in only 18 games. They've got solid talent across the field but we're a slightly bigger club by value and should match up reasonably well.
I'm taking a chance and going with a one striker formation today to start, as my advanced scout says they play well versus a flat 4-4-2. Giorgos Gesios will be up front and Zoltan Bardi will sit behind him. We'll utilize a control mentality at home.
Dover: 4-4-2 DM (4-2-3-1) Control
GK - I. Wilke
D - R. Gaucho, C. Contreras, R. Hamon, S. Loucif
M - N. Cairney, A. Rocca
AM - A. Bamba, Z. Bardi, G. Bolis
S - G. Gesios
Bench - J. Kuciak, P. Tjiuoro, Mancini, K. Kalfas, C. Murray, A. Zubizarreta, W. Rooney
Anderlecht are in a 4-5-1 formation with a DMC. Chiquinho is up front alone with Said Henni on the left wing. I say to go out there and perform for the supporters and tell Rayane Hamon to pick up where he left off in the United game.
4' - We have a throw in half way in their territory and Cairney gets it over to Andrea Rocca. Rocca passes up to Gianluca Bolis and from outside the area, he unleashes a vicious shot into the far top corner of the goal! STUNNING strike and we're ahead right off the bat! DOVER GOAL 1-0
23' - Not a lot of highlights but we seem to be controlling play. Gesios with a nice little back heel pass to Cairney but his shot is weak and right at Anderlecht goalkeeper Bill Weiss.
25' - We come close again, as three little passes result in Bardi feeding Gesios in the box but his shot from in tight is stopped by Weiss.
26' - Now it's Cairney sending a curling rocket off the crossbar! Man. "Dover are piling on the pressure", says the announcer.
30' - Renato Gaucho with a throw in down the left to Neil Cairney and he sends it back to the Brazilian. Renato Gaucho sends a long cross into the area and it's' GIANLUCA BOLIS AGAIN, directing a great header past Weiss and into the net. Bolis has two and we're comfortably ahead! DOVER GOAL 2-0
32' - Chiquinho shows his skill as he avoids a tackle from Rayane Hamon and bolts in on goal but his shot is weak and right at Wilke. Great buildup and disappointing finish by the Belgian striker.
34' - It isn't going to be easy. It's Chiquinho again getting a step on Claudio Contreras and he shoots for the far corner but Wilke pushes it away. The rebound is right at Said Henni and the lethal winger easily puts it into the empty net and Anderlecht are on the board. ANDERLECHT GOAL 2-1
44' - Henni gets another great chance and Wilke makes a sensational save. The Belgian side is taking it to us the last ten minutes.
HALFTIME - This is a bit closer than expected based on our first 30 minutes. We held 55% of possession but Anderlecht outshoot us 10-9 (5-4 on target). I may have to switch formations eventually, as we're starting to give up some chances but I'd like to get that third goal. My assistant wants me to tell them to do it for the fans so I go with it. I tell Bolis and Wilke I'm pleased with them and tell Gesios to go out and prove a point in the second half.
49' - Henni and Chiquinho are working well together and the winger sends the striker in on goal and Wilke makes a sprawling save.
50' - Anderlecht with a header off the crossbar. Yikes…they keep coming!
51' - Henni heads a cross toward goal but Wilke is in great position for the save. Wow we need to change tactics.
52' - Gesios is having a horrible game and he gives up possession in the opposing end and Anderlecht counter. Wilke botches a long Chiquinho shot and there's a big rebound but Wilke is able to scoop it up without further issue.
53' - Rocca sends Gesios in and the striker shoots harmlessly wide.
I switch to a flat 4-4-2 control mentality.
62' - Bardi has a chance to cross and it deflects off an Anderlecht defender and right to Gesios but his shot is weak and right at Weiss.
74' - Wayne Rooney is on for the completely disappointing Giorgos Gesios.
82' - Mancini is on for a tired Andrea Rocca.
88' - There's some sloppy play in midfield and Chiquinho comes up with it and sends it to Henni. He's cutting in on goal and Wilke comes out to challenge. Henni tries the lob and Wilke jumps and gets enough of the ball to deflect it just wide.
We hold them off the rest of the way. It's a win but not really convincing.
Dover 2 - 1 Anderlecht
Goals - Gianluca Bolis 2 (8.8)
Assists - Renato Gaucho (7.1), Andrea Rocca (6.9)
Man of the Match - Gianluca Bolis
Other Dover Notables - Ingo Wilke (7.7), Salim Loucif (7.2), Rayane Hamon (8.1), Giorgos Gesios (5.9), Neil Cairney (5.8)
Attendance - 15,762
We edge them on possession with 51% but they outshoot us 18-15 (9-6 on target). Terrible games from Gesios and Cairney and both will be benched in our next game, an FA Cup tie versus Fulham. We need to be better in the second leg if we're going to move on but we'll take the win. Wilke and Hamon were outstanding and of course, Bolis continues to improve by leaps and bounds this year! He's up to an incredible 14 goals on the year, not bad from a right midfielder!
-- Barcelona beat Ajax 3-2 away to take command in another Champions League matchup. Still to come are first knockout round matchups like Porto vs. Man City, Leverkusen vs. Man United, Besiktas vs. Atletico Madrid and Benfica versus OM.
-- We head to Craven Cottage and are huge favourites against Fulham in FA Cup 5th round action.