And just like that, the 2019-20 football season has started. Unfortunately for Cardiff Met, the European adventure has already ended.
It was a valiant performance though – in fact it’s amazing the University side even got to this stage!
So to give a bit of context, the Archers qualified for the Europa League after beating Bala Town in the WPL Europa League play-off final, thus joining The New Saints, Barry Town United and Connah’s Quay Nomads as one of the Welsh teams.
The draw pitted the Met against Progres Niederkorn, a side who finished fourth in Luxembourg’s first tier last season. Progres were the top seed in the draw and beat Rangers in this competition two years ago.
In the first leg, Progres showed their quality and dominated possession for the most part, but Mayron de Almeida’s goal meant the Archers were only 1-0 down on aggregate going back to Cardiff. I would give you a better description of this game, but there’s very little footage on the internet of it!
So to today (4th July 2019), and the game was to be played at Leckwith stadium with Cyncoed Campus not meeting Europe League ground standards. Tickets? 11.5 times the usual price so £11.50, but who can blame the Met board for cashing in.
So after a pre-match wrap at Maccies it was time to head across the road to Leckwith Stadium. Pre-match sound system positives: playing Zombie Nation by Kernkraft 400, negatives: playing that song where google translate reads out place names in Wales. If it was ever supposed to be funny, which it isn’t, it’s definitely not funny now.
The game started in furious fashion, with Christian Edwards’ men kicking from right to left in their usual burgundy home strip while Progres were wearing a white and green away kit with a million and six sponsors on. Within one minute of the start bodies were flying everywhere, eventually leading to a Met free-kick just outside the area.
From the set piece, Kyle McCarthy played the ball short to Elliot Evans who turned before chipping it to the back post. As the ball started to drop you just knew it was on the money, and at the back post the returning Jordan Lam was there to head in! 1-1.
The pessimist in me was about to blurt out, “it’s too early.” But I held back. Maybe I should’ve; a poor Bradley Woolridge backpass put their striker through on goal, luckily the Progres forward chipped it allowing Will Fuller to make a relatively easy save.
As the first half went on, Progres started to get a hold of the ball and play their possession game. Their number 7, Mayron de Almeida, looking particularly dangerous down the left side.
Although this Almeida geezer scored in the first leg, I was starting to think maybe his lack of final product was the reason he wasn’t playing for a team in the later rounds of the Europa League. The number seven was played through nicely by Stephane Ferreira but he could only drag his shot wide from a fairly complimentary angle.
Later in the game Almeida would bring out the stepovers, cut inside then unleash one of the worst shots I’ve ever seen – whether the shot went out for a throw-in cannot be confirmed as I turned away before the ball reached its destination.
Either way, Progres were getting closer and closer to an equalizer. A couple of deflected shots fell just wide of Fuller’s post and the Archers just couldn’t get out of their own area at times. It didn’t help that Will Evans was playing as a lone frontman, I say frontman but even he was playing in what I can only assume was a false nine position. I did think if only the Met had a muscular, tall centre-forward with a strong jawline who’s also a 200 metre runner, but unfortunately Adam Roscrow’s gone to Wimbledon.
Just before the break Jordan Lam started a finished a good move with a jinking run past two Progres defenders before firing straight at Sebastien Flauss. If anyone was to get the home side a second it was him.
The second half very much followed the same pattern as the first. Progres were dominating possession and looking like the top seed in the draw. The Archers were working hard to win it back and the hard work eventually bore fruit. Dylan Rees put in an early cross, Flauss beat Evans in the air with a punch and the ball subsequently rolled away. That was only to Mael Davies, who got in front of his man prior to getting every last penny out of the Progres defender putting a hand on his side before going down. We didn’t care though, Met had a penalty.
It was down to Dylan Rees, who could’ve been gearing up for a Championship season with Cardiff City in an alternate universe – the full back released by the Bluebirds as a youngster. Nevertheless, Rees didn’t disappoint, powering the penalty out of Flauss’ reach. 2-1.
But the joy only lasted six minutes. To be fair to Almeida, it was kind of his revenge for getting laughed at for the terrible shot earlier. The ball stood up for the Belgian through a combination of Sebastien Thill and Emlyn Lewis, and then he hit it. Eight yards out, powerful, accurate, Fuller had no chance.
Late on in that classic get all of your men forward and pump it up there fashion, Flauss made a cracking low save from Kyle McCarthy’s close-range volley. Following that, the Progres keeper made another, this time a superman style save from McCarthy’s long-range shot – one for the Sgorio cameras surely?
It wasn’t to be, which was a massive shame as you just knew if Met were to get a winner it’d they’d be guaranteed limbs. The away goal rule is stupid anyway. After the final whistle there was a bit of argy-bargy, but when that cooled down the Met quite rightly got a rousing applause from the home crowd. McCarthy went off slightly earlier than everyone else due to some kind of shoulder injury and as a result, got his own personal reception. Good on him, McCarthy is a certified baller and arguably the most underrated player on the team.
After the game, me and James managed to haggle this guy for a discounted half and half scarf. Every cloud. Nevertheless, now I’m back in the Diff for good I’ll be hoping to go to a few more games at Cyncoed this season (if Villa aren’t playing of course). Up the Archers!