Thank you for the momentary pause. I hope you have a cuppa on hand?!
This next post will pick up where the last left off. Hot after celebrating wining the Serie A for a second year on the bounce we had our second European cup final in two years. Last season we won the Europa League and Serie A double, could we go one better and win the Serie A and Champions League double? The only hurdle left was a trip to the Bernabeu to play against PSG. To give you some background on PSG, The Parisian team were current Ligue 1 champions and had just been crowned French Champions once again. They had also been in four Champions League finals in the last five years. This would make five in the last six. They had also won the Champions League on two occasions back in seasons 2021/22 and 2022/23. So, this team had some pedigree.
PSG also boasted of playing talents such as Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Marcos Asencio, and an aging Neymar. They were also propped up with new gens, such as Camilio Lizama, Dunga and Mehmet Oztuck (the latter you may not realise had been at TS Sports FC, after I had moved on to manage West Ham Utd).
The Champions League theme rang through the PA system and crowd in the Bernabeu were borderline manic in anticipation of the massive match ahead.
Torino got to kick off and Dell’Anna passed back to Allegra to get the game underway.
In the 10th minute Torino were pressing high up the pitch forcing PSG into passing back to their goalkeeper. The PSG Keeper, Vaclav Houska then passed the ball long to Ousmane Dembele who was unmarked in the PSG half. He turned and drove into the space that was in front of him as Santiago Mina began to close him down, Dembele dinked a high pass over the Torino defence and in the path of the advancing Mbappe. M’bappe then drove into the box and chipped a shot over the advancing Gigi Donnarumma to score the opening goal of the Champions League final.
The first half progressed, and Torino were holding their own despite being a goal down, the possession stats were stacking heavily in Torino’s favour. In the 32nd minute David Taddei managed to create some space for himself with a nice turn of pace. In doing so he was able to cross the ball across the box. Right Winger Antonio Lucerelli managed to get ahead of his marker and strike a shot at goal, the ball went past Houska but struck the inside of the right post and was quickly held by the very relieved Houska.
The half team talk was about urging more out of everybody as we had played a good game so far, we just needed to keep going and I was certain the lucky break would come.
The opening exchanges were frantic with neither side keeping control of the ball. Then in the 49th minute Dembele was give the ball and found time to drive wide down the right wing. He then crossed to M’Bappe who turned and shot but blazed the ball over the cross bar.
In the 56th minute we were forced into our first substitution when Dell’ Anna went down under a heavy but fair challenge from Dayot Upamecano. Pipo Calloni was called into action. I also chose to take off the tired David Taddei and swapped him for the spritelier Alessio Vannini.
In the 60th minute Torino received a freekick in the PSG half. Lucerelli crossed high and into the box and Michele Allegra headed the ball down for a team mate to latch on to, PSG Winger Ayoze Rivero managed to get ahead of Apraham Pan and clear the ball from danger.
2 minutes later PSG broke up a Torino attack and showed their devastating pace. Rivero was picked out by a Houska pass. Rivero drove from deep in his own half to the Torino byline. Skipping over a Van Den Engel challenge and beating De Leonardis in a foot race. Rivero crossed the ball into the Torino box where the oncoming Dembele then smashed a volley agonisingly wide of the goal.
In the 73rd minute Torino successfully defended a PSG corner, M’bappe had received the ball short and had his pocket pinched by Vannini who cleared the ball to the more advance Van Den Engel. Van Den Engel then drew a number of PSG players in and then passed forward to Calloni. Pipo Calloni then crossed the ball into the box but failed to pick out an Il Toro teammate.
In the 86th minute deep in the PSG half De Leonardis threw the ball back in to play. Striker Pipo Calloni controlled the ball and played an inside pass to midfielder Ganso. Ganso kept the ball moving with a side pass to Marco Falco. Falco then passed to playmaker Van Den Engel, who looked one way and then passed the other to the fresh legged Federico Donati. Donati then played a ball for Calloni who then got hauled to the ground by a tired Upamecano. The referee blow for a penalty!
With Dell’Anna off the pitch we looked to the cool head of Leroy Van Den Engel to take the penalty. Houska began to move along the goalline in a bid to unnerve the Dutchman. Van Den Engel then took a short run up and showed Houska his eyes. Houska dived to his left and the ball went straight down the middle. Van Den Engel scored! Goooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!!
With only a few minutes of “normal” time left on the clock I looked to encourage the team from the sidelines. In the 93rd minute PSG had a freekick just in the Torino half. It was punted long in abid to find anyone in a blue shirt. It did. Rivero, but his effort sailed wide of the Torino goal. The whistle is then blown bring the 90 minutes plus stoppages to a close.
In the interval I tell Michael Mensah to be ready in 5 minutes. Antonio Lucerelli was looking very tired, and it appeared cramp may have set in too. We encouraged the boys to keep battling and the chances would come.
We get the final 30 minutes underway. Instantly we are put on the backfoot. I look to Mensah and give him some final words of encouragement hoping his energy could be the spark that could be the difference between winning, losing and those dreaded penalties.
In the 99th minute an Mbappe freekick is gobbled up by the alert Donnarumma. With little action in that first period of extra time we then move in to the second with a greater element of hope.
In the 110th minute we see a Mina throw in provide a little rest bite before Vannini controls the ball and picks out Van Den Engel who is more central. VDE slides the ball into the path of Mensah who fires a shot, but it clatters PSG defender Vitto Francheschi rather than threatening the goal. The deflection finds its way back to Vannini who speads the ball wide to Mina. Mina crossed the ball into the box and Mensah heads the ball towards the goal but Houska is alert to the danger and saves the attempt.
3 minutes later PSG gain a freekick near the edge of the area. Naby Fernandes strikes a tame direct shot at goal but the attempt sails over the bar.
The match fizzles out of all energy, and the referee blows the final whistle. That match was to be concluded by penalties.
Torino win the toss and elect to kick first. I send Pipo Calloni to take the first, he scores.
PSG send striker Konig to take a kick, he duly scores.
I send Van Den Engel to take the second, he scores!
Houssem Aouar scores PSG’s second.
Michael Mensah scores Torino’s third.
And Alex Grimaldo scores the third for PSG.
I then send defender Apraham Pan to take the fourth. Who powers a shot into the bottom right corner and scored.
Rivero is then sent to take the PSG fourth and hits a tame shot straight at Donnarumma who beats the ball away from goal.
With Donnarumma pulling out a magical save it was then Ganso who was given the opportunity to become a legend. His penalty was coolly taken as he placed it in the bottom right corner. It sails past Houska and the entire section of Ill Granata fans erupt with cheers. The players who are on the pitch and the staff on the side-lines run towards Ganso and pile on him in celebration.
Torino have won the Champions League!
I am off to see if I can lift Ganso aloft in from of the Il Toro fans. Arrivederci! And thank you for reading.