PSV dropped three Eredivisie points in Arnhem for the first time in 26 years. Their second Europa League group match takes place on Thursday, and Omonia Nicosia could be the right opponent at the right time.
PSV drops three points in Arnhem
Last Sunday, PSV hoped to wash away the pain of the lost Europa League match of last week but instead dropped three Eredivisie points in Arnhem. It looked good from the start when Mohamed Ihattaren shot his first chance on goal after 49 seconds. But no one expected that to be their only highlight of the first half.
Maybe the slipping and stumbling Philipp Max and Jordan Teze were a harbinger of what was coming. In less than eight minutes, Vitesse defender Jacob Rasmussen scored a header from their first corner. Two minutes later, Ryan Thomas reacted with a long shot on the goal of former Jeroen Zoet stand-in, Remko Pasveer, but he kept the 0 for the Arnhemmers.
Every time PSV had ball possession, Vitesse would back down and form a compact block on their own half and hold a defense line of five players. Every time Vitesse got control of the ball, they would keep a defensive line of three players and put their two backs on the wings. That way, they always had one player extra because PSV plays with either four or two forwards. A simple but effective way of keeping the Eindhoven squad from the goal.
Painfully enough, it was PSV youth exponent Riechedly Bazoer who felt like a fish in the water in this kind of system. He was often the end of a PSV attack and the start of a Vitesse build-up, setting out the lines with seemingly great ease and pleasure. The exact opposite counted for PSV’s controlling midfielders.
Ibrahim Sangaré does a lot of great work defensively, but his forward passing is terrible, while Jorrit Hendrix has never had creativity as his strong side. The creativity had to come from wingers Ryan Thomas and Mohamed Ihattaren, but the 5-3-2 system worked very well against them; in the first half PSV had only three ball contact moments in the penalty box.
In the second half, PSV started much better. The result was an exciting 49th minute with a great free-kick from Philipp Max, but Pasveer made a fantastic save. Max took the corner kick following from that, resulting in a shot by Eran Zahavi that unfortunately landed on the wrong side of the first post. Max then took two more following corners, placing the second right on Olivier Boscagli’s head, who hit home perfectly.
Despite all the positive energy this equalizer unleashed, it took Vitesse just under four minutes and one attack to bring the score back into their advantage. It was the first of two decisive moments of the VAR too, who decided against PSV both times. Referee Bas Nijhuis first denied the possible offside situation at the 2-1 and then denied PSV a penalty in the last minute of the extra time.
From the 2-1 on, Vitesse did everything to take the tempo out of the match, much like Granada CF did successfully last Thursday. Letsch kept substituting players about every five minutes. Players took their time during standard situations, faking injuries and successfully disturbed counterattacks by making fouls on PSV’s own half. At times, they succesfully used the ‘gegenpressing’ that Roger Schmidt still tries to implement into his own squad.
Schmidt basically got a tactical beating by his former assistant. It’s a bit of a shame he pointed out the referee’s decision in front of the camera after the match. He should rather have looked at himself in front of the mirror, to begin with. Twice in a row, the opponents were smarter and more effective than PSV. That’s a specific attitude, and Schmidt needs to teach it to his own players as soon as possible. It’s something he has to demand of his squad, no matter the circumstances concerning COVID-19 or injuries.
No excuses for the match in Cyprus
Even though Schmidt shouldn’t blame circumstances, it’s clear there are several to list. You can sum them up best like this: the many late incoming transfers, several positive coronavirus tests and injuries. So, Schmidt hasn’t been able to play with his favorite starting 11 several times in a row now. But professional football is a rough business, and there’s no time for tryouts anymore. The next Europa League match carries a lot of weight because the first one resulted in 0 points.
Who are Omonia Nicosia?
Omonia Nicosia Athletic Club was founded in June 1948. That was more or less after a political dispute with APOEL, who are Cyprus’s oldest, biggest and most successful club. On this island country in the Mediterranean Sea, Greek and Turkish are the official languages.
AC Omonia is traditionally considered the club of the working class. Nicknamed ‘the Queen’, it won 14 of its 24 national titles in the 1970s and 1980s. That’s when they had Sotiris Kaiafas play for them, widely considered the best footballer Cyprus ever produced. He won the European golden boot after scoring 39 goals in the 1975/76 season and brought his total to 261 goals in 388 matches when he called it quits in 1984.
AC Omonia had a substantial setback in the 1990s, winning only one league title and two national cups. They did slightly better in the 2000s but still couldn’t impress when it comes to performing in the European competitions, in which they would almost always be eliminated before reaching the group phase. Things went further downhill after 2012, with 2018 as rock bottom.
A general assembly was called, and members voted to hand the club over to American-based Cypriot businessman Stavros Papastavrou. This caused the club’s fans group, Gate 9, to stop supporting the club’s football department. They stated that the decision went against Omonia’s traditionally left-wing ideals. The current red alternate kit is symbolic of the club’s association with AKEL, the country’s popular left-wing party.
AC Omonia plays their home matches in Stravolos at the GSP (Gymnastic Club “The Pancyprians”) Stadium, which they’ve shared with APOEL since 1999. Under normal circumstances, it allows for 22.859 visitors, making it Cyprus’s largest. Last season, when COVID- 19 hit the island, they were ranked first in the Cyta Championship. That’s how they got their Champions League qualification ticket for the first time in four seasons.
They won four and drew three times during the first seven matches of the 2020/21 season in their national competition. This sees them ranked fourth, after Apollon Limasssol, Anorthosis, and AEK Larnaca. They beat Ararat-Armenia, Lagia Warsaw, and Red Star Belgrade in the first three qualifying rounds for this Champions League season. The loss against Olympiacos landed them in Group E for the Europa League.
Omonia played its first Europa League match against PAOK Saloniki, the current number 6 of the Greek Super League. The Cypriots played in a 4-1-4-1 formation and scored the opening goal in the 16th minute, but conceded the equalizer in the 56th minute. The 1-1 was also the final score, with a second place in group E as result.
Omonia’s goal scorer was the 33-year-old Éric Bauthéac, who also made four of the 11 goals in the First Division competition. During his carreer the 1.68m tall Frenchman played a total of 307 competition matches. These were for Cannes, Dijon, Nice, Brisbane Roar, and Omonia Nicosia. During these, he scored 64 goals, gave 32 assists, and took 66 yellow and two red cards. I hope Roger Schmidt reads this!
From the 33 players of Omonia’s selection, nine are foreigners of 30 years and older. Eleven of the 16 national players are talents of 19 and younger. 51-year-old head coach Henning Berg played as a defender for Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United, and Glasgow Rangers. He also has 100 caps for the Norwegian national team.
Since 2005, he’s been a trainer for FC Lyn, Lillestrøm SK, Blackburn Rovers, Legia Warszawa, Videoton FC, and Stabæk IF. He signed at Omonia in 2019. His first season brought the club back to the Champions League, and of the seven matches, he’s only lost the one against Olympiacos. Omonia hasn’t been defeated during their last seven European home matches, so PSV can’t see Thursday’s match as a piece of cake.
PSV and corona
Jordan Teze and Eran Zahavi already played a match after their positive coronavirus tests earlier this month. Roger Schmidt hopes Timo Baumgartl, Maxime Delanghe, Denzel Dumfries, Cody Gakpo, Joël Piroe, and Pablo Rosario will also be able to play again, but that remains to be seen. It leaves no doubt that Mario Götzes’ presence will add value. He had had to let Sunday’s Eredivisie match pass him by due to a muscle injury.
PSV and Omonia Nicosia kick off at 21:00 (9PM) on Thursday. Join the online conversation on this Facebook page.