The business end of the season has commenced and the top six are desperately trying to eek out a few decent performances like preening cockatiels. Sadly for some of them, not only are their feathers tangled and grimy, but their beaks are scuffed and their necks incapable of bending. Below we take a look at various points from the three games.
Roberto Garcia reaffirms reputation of poor goal-getter
Roberto Garcia didn’t arrive in Cyprus with the greatest stats for a forward. He scored 16 goals in 73 goals for Huesca and a paltry 4 in 34 for Gimnastic. He has other qualities, however, which help his case, but not at the highest level. He’s astoundingly professional, a hard worker and a very competent target man. He can bring the ball down well and his link-up play can enable those around him to prosper. Unfortunately, not only was this not enough for Omonoia on Sunday, but his poor finishing and lack of pace both came to the forefront once more as he could neither fashion a quality chance for himself, nor slot the ball into the net when a couple opportunities fell to his feet. It’s been rumoured that manager Kaiafas does not hold him to a particularly high regard and that’s perhaps dented his confidence even further. I would be very surprised if he remains an Omonoia player past this summer.
Thuram has improved but far from a natural winger
I once had the misfortune of uttering some mildly unflattering comments about a player belonging to a Limassol club in front of his agent. This club may or not may be Apollon. That player may or not be Thuram. The Brazilian forward has not had the best of my times for Apollon and to be perfectly honest it’s hard to pretend that this is a surprise. Why? Because the Brazilian is a forward being played on the wing without having the attributes to be played there. Brazilian football is well-known for it’s disjointed tactical setup. Forwards and wingers don’t generally track back to help with defensive duties, especially at the level of players who find themselves in the lowly Cypriot league at the age of 24. There are lot of things to like about Thuram. He’s conducted himself well on the pitch and generally hasn’t shown much disdain about being played out wide. He’s even improved positionally and his work ethic is fairly high for a forward. He’s even slotted at right wing-back for half a game, despite that particular game’s manic and chaotic nature. The fact remains though. He’s not adept at playing wide. His first touch and spatial awareness out wide are unsatisfactory and his passing lacks accuracy or timing. It must be noted that the latter two attributes have improved greatly since the beginning of the season, but not to a degree where it’s merited for him to become a permanent winger. It’s fine when the game is open and Apollon is countering. His pace and willingness to go toe-to-toe with opposing full-backs can prove lethal when he’s on-song, but in tighter, more tactically demanding games, like the one against Ermis, he becomes fairly anonymous. Hopefully he’ll be given some more time as either a pure forward or one just behind the main attacker.
Isma lacks both sharpness and fitness
Esmaël ‘Isma’ Gonçalves’ second stint on the island comes with minimal hype. He was a January acquisition by a club that’s currently working with a relatively limited budget and boy does it show. Isma does possess some quality. After all, that’s what prompted Apoel to take a bet on him a season earlier. Whatever excitement his loan move from Rio Ave had generated fizzled away after Apoel’s disqualification from the Champions League. At least he looked fit then. That’s not exactly the case now. He appears overweight and this shows not only in terms of pace and stamina, but also in terms of how sharp he is on the pitch. A leaner, more focused Isma would have grabbed a goal against Apollon and would have formed some semblance of a threat against the somewhat shaky Apoel. I’m not sure of his wages, and one would assume they’re not excessively high, but Anorthosi may have a decent forward in their hands if they manage to make him lose weight and maintain his focus. His career stats don’t the story of a clinical finisher, but he has the alleviating excuses of uncertainty and nomadism. He’s had two goals for the Famagusta club so far, but I think he could at least be a 10 goal forward for them. Things are always in flux in Cypriot football so I wouldn’t wager in favour of him being here next season, but let’s see. There’s discreet air of underlying positivity at Anorthosis. There’s the slightest suspicion of safe, careful reconstruction and renewal emanating from the club. The underdog status against the big boys makes for a platform on which calmness can blossom from, although this is somewhat devious and must not become permanent. Next season will be telling for both Anorthosis and some of its players.
Ermis fully deserve their win
There’s no need for beating around the bush. Ermis’ win is rightful and just. Mitchell Van der Gaag set his side up as he should and studied the opponent as well as anyone. He sat deep, absorbed Apollon’s lukewarm pressure with consummate ease and countered to a devastating effect. I’d venture to say that the one nil win actually flatters Apollon. For a number of reasons the Limassol club were dire and the effects of this loss will be felt for long, long time. Loss of momentum, losing first place, two major injuries, you name it. It all went wrong for Andones’ team against the boys in red and black. Ermis could have also had a penalty after the ball made contact with Merkis’ arm and might have also been entitled to a goal if Manu’s goal had indeed went over the line completely. And what of Ifeanyi Onyilo’s goal? Say what you want about Vale’s positioning and the defence standing the Nigerian off so much, but you can’t deny the beauty of the strike. Papoulis was the one who came into this game with the reputation of the occasional outside-the-box curler but the Red Star man outdid him and then some. If Ermis repeat their performance against Apollon in the following games it would be quite reasonable to assume that the Nicosia clubs are also under threat against them. The playoffs are shaping up to offer some tasty games ahead.