United go down in hard-fought League Opener
11 / 05 / 2017
Riga United 1-3 Monarhs-Flaminko
A typical United fixture. A scoreline that hardly justifies the size of the fight in the dog. A shocking first 20 minutes from the men in red, but a well battled remainder of the game that proves why they are well past their days titled as the underdogs.
We were all eager to see the 3-4-3 that United has been tactically experimenting, but it was a surprise to see them start conventionally with a four-man defence in a balanced 4-2-3-1. But for the first 20 minutes, the defense seemed so used to playing with a tri-centreback formation that the four-man arrangement was suddenly Greek and Latin. Monarhs caught them early on out of shape, nervous and bewildered forcing Edgars into a save just 3 minutes into the game. Then came the freekick for which everyone was clueless including the Monarhs striker who himself couldn’t believe his luck being open on the left post unmarked quickly pushing United on the back foot with an early goal.
The center back duo of Matehus and Ali were still finding their defensive shape when a dangerous ball slipped over, and Edgars lost the race to ball against the Monarhs striker who chipped it over shockingly making it 0-2 at 13’. A confident Monarhs were now able to send more men up and a sudden burst of one-touch passing saw them steal yet another goal at 20’. It was turning out to be an onslaught until Fabio was firm to take charge of the defensive transition, winning early balls in front of the line and sending diagonal crosses over the park to the wingers a couple of times. Niels was able to pickpocket the Monarhs’ defensive mid and release Ervins who failed to convert a shot from a tight angle. Ervins did open his goal tally of the season however at 35’ by hammering a right-footer across the keeper before end of the first half.
Starting the second half at 1-3, United looked stronger and more determined for a comeback. Awada’s robust half-time talk did the job as we saw the men defend with greater conviction. The fullbacks, Sofian and Jon also stepped up their workrate and pushed higher up the flanks, which enabled Julian to find pockets of free space on the right side troubling Monarhs at multiple occasions. The Marco substitution also saw a huge impact in the midfield chemistry with Niels and Julian, and Ervins was quite unlucky to find a similar shot blocked off by the far post. Monarhs were tired knees at the end almost having to push forward with the help of some controversial refereeing. The defense did a far better job with Ali looking solid at the back and Edgars pulling yet another acrobatic save from a 73’ Monarhs’ freekick.
Had Josu found a better connection on the headers from two of Niels’ set pieces, the end result would have been a lot different. But, the black cats did deliver a lovely game of football until the final whistle for all of us. The question is - did we have to go down 0-3 first to crank our engines. At the end of the game, Awada shared the similar opinion: “First 20 minutes we were all over the place, albeit a good second half. The difference was they were more clinical. They had 4 shots on target of which they converted 3, and we had 5 and converted 1. Not a happy result, but a good fight. We have a lot to work upon.”
Last but not least, it was an impressive performance by Jon in his first league game with a solid defensive performance as a left back, and a few entertaining nutmegs for us all. Let’s hope United will work on stabilizing their rhythm in the opening minutes of a game for their next fixture in an attempt to secure their much deserved 3 points.