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I once found myself in a taxi in the pilgrim city of Santiago De Compostella when I metioned to the driver that I thought I might like to have a look at nearby La Coruna. He told me in no uncertain terms not to bother.
“It’s not as glamorous as Ipswich”, he said already knowing where I’d come from. “Sounds nice”, I thought to myself, whilst simultaneously knocking it off the list. This was not long after Rivaldo had played there and only about a year after Deportivo LaCoruna had won the Spanish league. It must be pretty glamorous.
That was a long time ago, and the Galician club from the Riazor Stadium have had much less of a good time of it recently, but they still came 10th in the Primera Division last season and look to have a couple (well, at least one in John Urreta) of proper footballers, so their visit to play FC Union in Köpenick on Sunday was a must see. And it turned out like that too. LL Cool J might not like to use the term, but this WAS a comeback. Three down with 20 minutes to go, Union were reeling, having spent most of the last hour fruitlessly chasing the ball around like a stray dog in a pork pie factory. The spaniards technique’s oozed class, but some people never know when they’re beaten.
In a carbon copy of a move he had tried only a couple of minutes earlier, Bjorn Brunneman jinked in from the right and unleashed a beautiful curler insde the far post. Torsten Mattuschka, a man that is not going to need to worry about ever standing his round in these parts, got the second with a textbook freekick and then the new guy, the impressive Santi Kolk scored the equaliser with the last kick of the game. Breathless doesn’t describe it. Seconds before laying the ball off to Kolk for the goal Brunneman looked like he was going to have a heart attack, as if he’d flashbacked to that flight of steps again in the training camp.
Boss Uwe Neuhaus certainly didn’t know where the burst came from. It all just seemed, well, over. “A few of us were already at the limit at half time….. I actually can’t explain any more”, he replied on being asked about where the response had come from.
Union did have their moments though, but there are still a couple of questions hanging over the friendly against Middlesbrough this weekend that want asking before the imminent start of the season. On a completely new right hand side, Jerome Polenz and Christopher Quiring offered pace and a bit of guile, but were too often caught on the back foot. Having said that they were kept busy enough by the Depor’ full back Dos Santos and the superb Urreta, and Quiring himself had a couple of glorious touches in the second half- he only looks about 11, and is shorter than both Iggy Pop and Pablo Picasso, but could have a bit of the Marco Marin’s about him.
At centre half Ahmed Madouni looked like a player with Champions League experience, and showed it, giving Quiring a particularly long “No, this way” lesson when play was stopped for Mattuschka taking a shot in the balls. Christoph Menz did well playing in the “Schweini roll”, though surely there can’t be space for both him and MacchambesYounga Mouhani in the team with a returning Dominic Peitz next week. I felt sorry for Karim Benyamina, who toiled but never really got the ball to his feet where he wants it to run at the LaCoruna defenders and have a go.
It’s getting interesting. The new season is just around the corner, and Union know that they need a replica of last years flying start. Especially as the derby against Hertha is as early as the second home game. Still, it’s not to be sniffed at. Despite changing almost the entire team at half time (causing certain, er, journalists to entirely miss their third goal trying to work out who had come on for who) Deportivo looked as though they could have kept this shit up for weeks. Somehow, by the skin of their teeth Union fought back, and it’s that spirit that will see them well for next season. The game against ‘Boro wants to just show a little more.