‘There are no specific secrets but only one clear aim that we need to reach by fighting all together as a team.’
These were the words that Mauro Caneglias, the player-coach at Centurion, left to Rumori before taking on JK Tondi in the Grandliiga Cup Final.
And it was indeed by fighting as a team, and suffering as one, that the yellow-blues managed to reach the bottom of the competition and finally rise the trophy in the sky over Maarjamäe sporting complex.
‘The match was hard, as I completely expected’ talked Mauro again after the tight 2-2 draw that led the two teams to the extra time and eventually the bingo lottery of the penalty shoot-outs. ‘I do believe that penalties are a separate game inside a match. A manager cannot prepare much. I could only entrust all my firm believes in my players and make them understand I completely trusted each one of them.’
However, this is just the end of the movie. We need to rewind the tape to what the game was in its regular time (25 minutes X 2).
The game started off well for Centurion since Spanish striker, Jordi Federico, opened the score immediately for the yellow-blues (6’). A promising start that filled the gap with the titleholders JK Tondi, champions of everything.
However, here came the experience and cold blood of the veterans who managed to turn the game on its head before half-time.
First Sergei Kljuev pulled one back eight minutes later (14’) and then, just before the break, Denis Mettus killed Centurion’s hopes to reach the interval on an even ground (25’).
Mauro had to pull the strings together and push his side to start over again in the second half. ‘When you are in need to equalize it always seems that time runs faster’ explained the Sardinian manager to Rumori ‘you don't even have time to think properly. But this time we had to go over our limits.’
At odds with the clock, Mauro had to take firm decisions without losing grab with the score, still favourable to a comeback. ‘My main plan was to introduce an additional striker to the game and while I was trying to support the team, I was also trying to understand how to make the change and who to take out.’
Never an easy decision for a coach to tell a lad to come off, however, it’s part of the job. ‘It's never easy. Especially when you see every single one giving his best’ explained Mauro, praising each and every team member ‘there was also a risk to suffer Tondi’s counters since they are masters at.’
What was the final solution then? ‘I asked the guys to push more and to let the ball run faster by passing it quicker in order to try to open spaces. In the end, we managed to find that tiny hole to equalize.’ Indeed, on 41’ minutes, Anatoli Boźko pulled level with JK Tondi, 14 minutes to time.
However, when things go well, time never ends. The priority for Centurion was not to compromise the achieved result and, eventually, try to obtain something more before the final whistle. The attitude of the team explains once and again how they could hold until time. ‘I was totally aware this match was going to be strictly tactical and I was prepared it could end at penalties’ confessed Mauro about how he expected this game to be.
‘Nevertheless, the team entered the pitch with the perfect attitude. They went over their limits. On Friday, there weren't single players on a pitch. There was one single Group (he stressed the capital ‘g’ –edit) fighting till the very end to reach the target. And our 2 goals show exactly that: we reached the aim by building all together each single action.’
The last step was taking on the penalty shoot-outs (see video at the bottom).
‘In regards to choose who had to shoot, well, I based the decision on my previous experiences. Sometimes a look in the eyes tells hundred things more than a conversation.’
The only player a coach cannot choose is the goalkeeper. Unless you are Van Gaal.
However, Mauro entrusted totally Adrian Aniśtśenko.
‘Adrian made 2 incredible and unforgettable penalty saves, which I am still struggling to choose which one was best.’
When you see your goalkeeper stopping two shoot-outs, the temptation to feel you have managed it, it is great. Mauro kept his aplomb: ‘I didn't think it was over. I did honestly sense Jose (Page, the last penalty take –edit) was going to make it. But I could not give vent to joy until the moment I could see the ball in.’
Once the last penalty hit the back of the net, Mauro could let his emotions flow. ‘There is no real word that can describe how I really feel’ told Mauro to Rumori ‘few days have passed and I can't really help watching now and again what we managed to achieve last Friday. For this, I can only thank each single one of my Players, everyone! From those who entered the pitch on Friday, to those who helped to reach the final but could not play, without forgetting who was there on Friday helping me and those who came to support and everyone else that did not take part in the cup, but contributed to make this season exceptional. A huge Thank You goes to everyone involved somehow in this.’
What is the next step for Centurion considering we are about to enter the indoor season? ‘First of all, the outdoor season is not over yet. There is still a match to go in the League, then the Super Cup (on the 9th of October at 19:30 in A.LeCoq Sisehall, the covered pitch in the A.LeCoq Arena sport complex) and then we will go indoor’ told Mauro setting the calendar his team will have to duly observe before switching to futsal.
‘Before that, we need to reset all. We need to start everything back from scratch being humble. The biggest mistake we could do is to become presumptuous. The main thing I want the Team to keep in mind is the awareness. The awareness that if we play as a Team, we can make great things. Besides this, we need to be always hungry and willing to grow.’
Stay hungry, stay fool.
SEM will celebrate the end of the outdoor season with an award ceremony that will be held at Violet Lounge on the 10th of October at 21:00.