MANILA, Philippines — What’s a Clear Dream Match without the rain and mud?
In another soggy affair at the University of Makati, Team James reversed last year’s result to come away with a smashing 4-1 win over Team Phil in the Clear Dream Match II thanks to two scintillating goals from James Younghusband and Izzo El Habbib.
In the driving rain, Team James with former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and last year’s Clear Dream Match Best Defender Yves Ashime shutting down the area around the box, outplayed Team Phil to equalize the head-to-head match up between the Younghusband brothers in what is becoming the “all-star game” for local football players.
I felt that Team James was going to win this second bout not because of Cannavaro who is obviously far from his 2006 form when he won the Ballon d’Or Award after captaining Italy to the World Cup but more because Younghusband drafted shrewdly than haphazardly like he did last year. Like Phil the previous year, he selected the top defenders available and built from there. On the other hand, James’ younger brother opted for players who could play multiple positions.
However, to be fair to Phil, his team was dealt a stinging blow before the match when Rufo Sanchez hadn’t arrived in time for the match and Carlie De Murga and Armand Del Rosario went down with injuries.
Yet incredibly, it was Phil Younghusband who scored first when he blasted a heater from a foot outside the box that dipped right under the hands of Saba Garmaroudi. And all of a sudden, it looked like Team Phil could score an upset.
It’s a sight I won’t forget, Fabio Cannavaro berating Garmaroudi. I thought back to the pre-match press conference where the former Italy captain said that he’d like to keep a clean sheet as much as possible. Spoken like a true defender, I thought. I also made a mental note of that and wanted to see if he would make good on that promise.
Truthfully, I wondered how good Fabio would still be. You have to take every thing with a grain of salt because for one, both Cannavaro (who has had knee trouble for quite a while now) and Dennis Wise are far from their in-form days; two, they don’t really know their teammates; and three, the pitch was horrible.
At one point, Phil Younghusband beat him for a goal. But the goal was disallowed for some reason (I think I heard someone say that another teammate was offside).
Like a true captain
Nevertheless, it was a thrill for me (and more so for the players) to have Cannavaro and Wise on that pitch. When Cannavaro stopped a forward pass with his chest I was watching him quickly survey his options (the crowd roared at the same time). Control, one dribble, and pass. He marshaled his backline like a true captain. Hey, I saw that when he played for Juventus, Italy, and Real Madrid, I said to myself.
Because I was in the media tent and with the rain pouring, I didn’t get to see much of Dennis Wise. I actively tried to search for him on the pitch to follow him.
After the match, Wise gamely posed for pictures and signed shirts and whatever was thrust in front of him. And he was going straight to the airport to fly back to England (1am flight)! “I had fun,” he said to me. “Obviously, I am not young but it sure feels good to put the shirt on again and feel the rain on my face.”
Red card in a charity match
It could have been more fun and challenging had it not been for a call that might have possibly altered the outcome of the match.
I was upset with the red card shown to Team Phil’s Rodrigue Nembot, a late addition to the squad after Armand Del Rosario got injured. I felt for one, it wasn’t a foul because Nembot had gotten to the ball first before Misagh Bahadoran and, two, if it was a foul, it wasn’t like he went after the player and that it didn’t warrant a red card. Furthermore, this is an exhibition game and that spoiled it for Team Phil. And that was very early in the match.
Nevertheless, the game continued with terrific football on both sides.
Team Phil looked to have equalized at 2-2 when Phil beat Cannavaro and blasted a shot from the left side of the box. But the linesman flagged a Team Phil player for offside.
But that was about it. Team James dominated possession and scoring chances en route to a 4-1 win.
On Saturday night, after most of the players washed up and left, I left the locker room of Team James after I gulped down the contents of a pair of water bottles (I was left extremely thirsty after minding the media tent). As I made my way back to the darkened pitch, I was surprised to see James Younghusband still talking with fans and posing for pictures with them. This was a good 30 minutes after the awarding of the best players of the match and close to an hour after full time. He had to be pulled away by the organizers to get washed up for the after match party. – Rappler.com