20 minutes to go until the Weekend League closes. One game to clinch Gold 2 for that guaranteed Premier League TOTS pick. Latency flickers between 3 and 4 bars, but I have no choice. This is the game that decides it all.
Opponent team features OP Socrates, Flashback Firmino, 88 Best and 86 Richarlison. Not the worst match-up. My team should have enough quality to see them off.
Opponent gets the kick-off. He does a few La Croqueta as soon as Socrates receives the ball. Meanwhile, my player switching seems sluggish and defensive players turn like cement blocks. This is going to be a lot of fun. Noticing lag from my end, opponent promptly switches to a high pressing game. He spams quick passes and shoots on sight from outside the box, winning corner after corner. Pressure mounts. "It's okay", I whisper to myself, "I've been through freakin' kidney stone surgery. This is nothing." The new TOTS Doherty does brilliantly in intercepting passes and starting counters. I begin to regain momentum and create chances of my own.
That's when it strikes. A cursed deflected shot from his Firmino bounces into the path of Best, who smashes it first time into the crotch of one Jerome Boateng. Boateng falls like a ton of bricks as Best slots the subsequent rebound into the bottom right corner of the net. 1-0.
As I'm still too busy scoffing at what I've just seen and muttering under my breath, the opponent quickly doubles the lead with a well worked build-up, capped off by Firmino side-footing a first time shot from outside the box into the roof of the net. Well deserved. 2-0. But this is where I get my game face on. I've been hard done by and I am determined to turn it around. A two goal lead can be a dangerous one, they say.
Second half begins with the gameplan being attack and nothing else. I've got nothing to lose and everything to prove. From a patient build-up with the assistance of the "overlapping fullbacks" of Reddit fame, I work the ball up pitch, getting it to where SBC Musa lies in wait. He receives the ball on the edge of the box, takes a turn toward goal and bangs it into the top right hand corner. 2-1.
From here on, the game continues to swing in my favor as the opposition appears to be unable to cope with my formation. The goals come quickly. First, it is Socrates who does what he does best: gliding in from the left and scoring with his dominant right from a long shot. Then, it is the 7-chem, position changed UCL Moments Alessandro Florenzi who sees off the opponent's defender with a simple stepover inside the box, followed by a powerful right-footed shot that seers into the top right. 3-2. I am coasting toward Gold 2 with 10 in-game minutes to go.
However, this is not the end, with the climax barely creeping on the horizon.
2 minutes into added time, with practically moments to go, the opponent wins a freekick at the edge of the box. As expected, it is a three-man setup. I position my defenders left and right of the wall anticipating the inevitable runs in. It means precious little, as the pass makes it way to Richarlison anyway and he makes no mistake slotting it past the helpless Donnarumma. 3 all.
I yell out profanity in frustration.
Full-time whistle blows.
Did I get ahead of myself? Did I relax too soon?
My fears compound as the stuff of horrors happens at kick-off. He fires quick passes as my players refuse to move. Firmino scores to make it 4-3.
I pause. I'm too mad at this moment to go on. At this point, there's a good chance the opponent continues to capitalize on my sloppy defending and score another. Gold 3 isn't bad.
But then I think of Hazard's smile, Wijnaldum's scream and Van Dijk's beautiful everything, and hit resume. I will win this.
It is the 112th minute. Marco Reus, who is fresh on his feet, receives the ball on the left flank. He does a running fake shot to see off his marker, dashes in toward the left of the box. Musa has found his spot in the middle of the box, waiting for his chance. "Don't hold too long," I tell myself as Reus makes a driven cross in, which finds his target. Musa scores. 4-4. "Frick yes," I grunt.
The opponent seems clearly upset by this. He quickly restarts the game and attempts to restore his lead immediately. However, Doherty who has been quiet since the second half, makes a crucial interception. This could be it.
Doherty squares a pass to De Bruyne as I trigger the striker's run. De Bruyne takes a second, which seems to last an eternity, before releasing a threaded through ball up pitch. It is perfectly weighted and glides past the opponent's Van Dijk. And at the end of it is Musa, who is clear and through on goal, one-on-one with Courtois who's dashed all the way out to stop him. He slots it. It rolls into the bottom right of the net. 5-4. I hold my breath, skip replays and reposition myself on the couch.
He rage quits.
I've reached Gold 2 and have earned my break until rewards on Thursday.
TL;DR: This weekend league was sweaty. I got Gold 2. Musa is God. I'll see you all on Thursday when I've packed two TOTS Maddisons for my troubles.
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