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Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
During the handshake, Inter Milan's players got the feeling that Nottingham Forest's players emanated a killing intent that was even stronger than before.
They were perplexed.
Nottingham Forest is the team going into this match with an advantage! Why are they acting in such an aggressive manner? We are the ones who should be giving off a killing intent!
The stadiums in England are generally smaller in size. The City Ground Stadium can only hold a maximum of 30,000 spectators, but to the Italians however, the noise that is produced from such a small stadium could not be underestimated.
The smaller the stadium, the closer the audience gets to the football pitch. Every single sound that they make will easily concentrate and be distinctly picked up on the pitch.
At stadiums like the San Siro Stadium where the stands are situated further and higher away from the pitch, the players are unable to see the fans from where they stand on the pitch, and they feel less stressed as a result. However, at traditional British stadiums such as the City Ground Stadium, not only can players hear every single swear word that the fans shout clearly, they can even see the hairs in the nostrils of the fans who stand right behind the goalpost when they shoot for goal. The kind of stress that comes with playing at smaller stadiums was not something that the players can experience at large stadiums.
Forest fans exerted enormous pressure on the Inter Milan players from the start of the match. They made use of boos, chastis.e.m.e.nts and all sorts of gestures to disturb the Inter Milan fans. The atmosphere in the stadium made Mourinho furrow his brows.
Mourinho decided to start Quaresma in the match again given his outstanding performance previously. He hoped that Quaresma would be able to make use of his personal skills and abilities to trouble Nottingham Forest's defense.
There was theoretically nothing wrong with his decision to play Quaresma. Choosing to rely on a player's individual performance when you have to face off against a team that is strong at defense might sometimes lead to unexpected results.
Quaresma was laughed and booed at by the Nottingham Forest fans after he got the ball out of bounds when trying to stop it at his feet. The mockeries from the fans happened so close to him that it made him tense up, and he started performing poorly afterwards.
As a result, Mourinho could not pin his hopes on Quaresma being able to bring about any drastic change to the team's offense anymore…
The Forest fans spared no pains in going against Inter Milan. The moment Inter Milan makes a tiny mistake, there would be overwhelming laughter and boos from the Forest fans.
On the other hand, every single time a Nottingham Forest player touches the ball, there would be thunderous applause from the Forest fans.
This is the home advantage…
Quaresma was an inconsistent player. In the previous match between the two teams, he was able to put in a brilliant performance and even score a world-cla.s.s goal. In this match however, he has been performing poorly.
There was a time in the match where Quaresma failed to get past Baines at the flank, and he chose to raise his foot and shoot for goal forcibly. However, his outside of foot shot flew right past the end line and was miles away from the goalpost.
His blind shot at goal made Ibrahimović very upset as he had been waiting in the middle of the pitch for him to pa.s.s the ball over. Ibrahimović flailed his arms about vigorously to let Quaresma know that he should have pa.s.sed the ball over to him instead of shooting for goal, but Quaresma hung his head in frustration over the mistake that he just made, and did not pay any attention to the Swedish forward.
Quaresma tried to make his way into Forest's penalty box a while later, but he was intercepted by George Wood who came at him with a tackle. The ball did not roll out of bounds, but Quaresma rolled off the pitch.
Quaresma, who was on the ground, signaled to the referee that Wood had just committed a foul, but the referee showed no interest in his claims. The referee did not blow on his whistle, and that indicated that the referee did not think Wood had committed a foul on Quaresma.
Quaresma was furious with the referee's decision. He jumped up from the ground and began flailing his arms about as he complained to the referee incessantly about his decision. He completely ignored how Wood had started going on the attack right as he was complaining to the referee.
His behavior upset Mourinho. Mourinho stood right behind Quaresma and hollered at the player who was from Portugal just like him, “What are you f*cking doing, Ricardo? Get back in the match!”
Quaresma became much more well-behaved after he got scolded at by his manager. However, it did not take long for him to start 'misbehaving' again.
Quaresma was not in a good form for the match, but he was very worked up for some reason. He would raise his hand and signal to the referee that the other party has committed a foul the moment there is a little bit of physical contact. He would blame the opponent for playing petty tricks when he lost the ball, and he would also claim that the other party collided with him when he failed to get past them.
It was not just during offense that he acted with this much agitation. He acted the same way during defense well. People were worried that he would be shown two yellow cards and get sent off the pitch before the first half ended.
Those people clearly worried too much.
Quaresma did not receive a single yellow card in the match, though he was still taken off the pitch…
Wood did not pa.s.s the ball straight away after he s.n.a.t.c.hed it from Quaresma's feet. Instead, he observed the situation on the pitch, and came to the decision that he should bring the ball forward himself.
His decision came as good news to Quaresma, who had been held back by Wood. It meant that he had the chance to s.n.a.t.c.h the ball back from Wood and catch Forest off guard!
Without hesitation, Quaresma moved beside Wood and tried to s.n.a.t.c.h the ball back while tugging onto his s.h.i.+rt.
Just when he had stuck his leg out, Wood galvanized into action and he dragged Quaresma with him as he made a turn.
Quaresma led out a cry in pain and he released his hand that had been holding onto Wood's s.h.i.+rt. His face went white as he laid on the ground with a hand over his right knee.
He did not look like he was putting on an act…
Wood glanced at Quaresma who was on the floor. He hesitated a little but still decided to kick the ball out of bounds.
Everyone was unprepared for the incident since it occurred so suddenly. The commentator went into a short daze before he said, “Quaresma is injured… How did he get injured?”
A replay of the incident began to air on the television screen.
Quaresma had tugged on Wood's s.h.i.+rt in hopes of lessening his pace, which would then bring about a chance for him to s.n.a.t.c.h the ball away from Wood.
It was a good plan, but who would have known how fearsome Wood's strength and energy was?
Quaresma had his right leg as a support, and right at the moment when he stuck his leg out to s.n.a.t.c.h the ball away, Wood suddenly galvanized into action. The force behind Wood's actions caused every other part of Quaresma's body, barring his right leg, to turn forward. His right leg was not able to turn with the rest of the body because it had been acting as a pivot for his body. As a result, it created an utterly bizarre scene: Quaresma's body had already made a 360 degree turn, but his right leg still maintained its original position…
Everyone knew what the scene signified.
There wasn't a single person whose knee would be in good shape after making a turn that was not humanly possible.
And that was also why Quaresma has fallen to the ground yelling in pain with a hand over his knee.
“Oh G.o.d…” The commentator's voice did not sound like he normally did. He was frightened by the scene that he had just viewed. The moment where Quaresma's knee got twisted and became deformed was shown before everyone in slow motion. The scene was real and brutal. Not everyone could act normally after seeing such a scene.
“I think that Quaresma's knee has suffered a very bad sprain. He's definitely unable to continue playing in this match.” The commentator showed reservation in expressing his real thoughts.
Maybe Quaresma will be unable to continue playing for the rest of the season.
Inter Milan's medical staff rushed to Quaresma's side without waiting for the referee to gesture for them to get on the pitch. The spot in which Quaresma laid at was very near to Inter Milan's bench after all.
They removed Quaresma's hand that he had clasped over his knee. When Inter Milan's head doctor Franco Combi saw Quaresma's right leg, he could not help but draw a deep breath.
His calf laid in an absolutely abnormal manner next to his thigh. It did not look like Quaresma's calf at all, because a normal person's leg would not be joined together in the same way that his was. It was proof that Quaresma had fractured his knee joint.
Nevertheless, Combi still had to comfort Quaresma who was in a lot of pain, “It's okay, it's okay. It's not a big deal…”
He had already gestured Mourinho to bring on a subst.i.tute for Quaresma.
“I… I can't feel… My… My… Right leg…” Quaresma was in tears as he laid on the ground. The doctor might have tried to console him all this while, but he knew what had happened to him. There was nothing more agonizing than a broken leg to a professional footballer.
Quaresma, who had been as lively as a rabbit just a while ago, was now lying lifelessly on the ground. His right calf was twisted to the side. The sweat that had been secreted due to the pain and the tears that gushed out from his eyes blended into one. It was impossible to separate them from each other.
Even the Nottingham Forest players had looks of pity on their faces upon seeing the scene.
The boos that were targeted at Inter Milan gradually stopped, and the City Ground Stadium that could hold 30,000 spectators suddenly quietened down.
A stretcher had been sent onto the pitch. Four medical staff gingerly placed Quaresma onto the stretcher. Combi then covered his right leg with a towel before the stretcher was lifted off the pitch.
Quaresma's injury might not have been caused by a foul from Wood, but Wood was still inextricably linked to it.
Wood stood by Quaresma's side ever since he fell to the ground. He only walked up to Quaresma when he had been lifted up in the stretcher, and he gently patted him on the shoulder.
He had never been injured before, but that did not mean he did not understand how it felt to be injured. He has been feeling guilty all this time for causing Eastwood to suffer a serious injury due to his reckless actions. He hopes to avoid getting injured as much as possible, unless he is really left with no other choice.
Quaresma felt someone pat him on the shoulder, but he a.s.sumed it was from his team mate and did not pay any heed to it. He had covered his face with both of his hands and was feeling tormented over the fact that he was injured. He was not in the mood to care about anything else.
Quaresma was definitely not going to be able to get back on the pitch for the remainder of the match. He needed to be sent to a local hospital in Nottingham for immediate treatment straight away. He would only take a plane back to Milan after the match has ended.
His injury messed up Mourinho's plans completely. Mancini has not recovered from his injury and Mourinho did not even bring him along to England. Now that Quaresma was severely injured, Mourinho was left with no other choice but to bring on the 32 year-old Dejan Stanković as a subst.i.tute for Quaresma.
Twain crossed his leg after seeing Stanković get on the pitch. It was a sign that he was very relaxed at the moment.
“It's a shame that Quaresma suffered such a serious injury and I do feel sorry for him, but this is a chance that has been given to us. Inter Milan's players must still be reeling in shock from what just happened, and bringing on another player so suddenly will lead to some confusion and chaos on their side as well. If we can grasp this chance, we can close out the match.” Twain told the two a.s.sistant managers beside him.
“David, tell the players to strengthen their offense. This is a good chance to get a goal.”
Kerslake did as he was told. He had a loud voice that did not pale in comparison to Tony Twain's, and more importantly, his voice was not as hoa.r.s.e as Twain's. When he shouts at the top of his voice, even people who are situated very far away from him can hear him, which is why Kerslake is generally the one who will relay Twain's instructions to the team during the match, unless there are important things that Twain must convey personally.
As Kerslake stood by the side of the pitch, he made use of his loud voice and hand gestures to tell the Nottingham Forest players, “Don't let the fact that an opposing player sustained an injury get you down! This is a very good chance for us to score a goal!”
If anyone had thought that the atmosphere in the stadium would ease up a little and become much better for the away team to perform in after seeing how Nottingham Forest's fans showed kindness and respect towards Quaresma when he was injured, then they were utterly mistaken.
Laughter and boos directed at the Inter Milan players rang out from the stands once again a while after the match restarted.
There was not even a shred of sympathy on the Forest fans…
As fans, they draw a clear line between 'work' and 'personal affairs'. Keeping quiet when Quaresma was injured was out of personal feelings, but now that they are in a match, it was back to 'business' for them.
Twain wanted his team to strengthen their offense and fight for a goal, but Mourinho did not make any further mistakes. He quickly saw through Twain's plan, and immediately got his team to make their formation more compact and pay more attention to defense. They were not going to give Nottingham Forest any chance to score a goal.
The Inter Milan players put in a good performance. Nottingham Forest attacked Inter Milan vigorously, but they lacked the finis.h.i.+ng blow. Ibišević was tightly marked by Inter Milan's defenders, and Mourinho chose to let his players get rough on Şahin as a way to curb his attacks. Both flanks were also well-defended, and the players were also asked to keep a close eye on George Wood and Tiago.
All in all, Inter Milan did not give Forest even the slightest chance to score.
The match reached a stalemate. Both teams spent most of their time battling it out in the midfield and had very few chances at goal. It was quite boring to watch.
However, things were different for this game as compared to their previous match against Inter Milan. It would be good if the team could score goals, but Twain would not feel irritated if the match continued to stay as a stalemate since they have two away goals. Nottingham Forest would still progress to the next round even if the score stayed 0:0 at the end of the match.
Hence, Twain's core tactic for this home game was to 'defend and counterattack'.
It was a tactic that has made countless of their opponents gnash their teeth in anger, and it will always make a grand appearance every time Twain needed a result. It represented Tony Twain's 'conservative football' and 'result football'.
George Wood and Tiago were both playing as the defensive midfielders and their main role was to defend. Cohen and Fernández play as the side midfielders, but they were not attacking midfielders. They had to defend while going forward to attack. Leighton Baines and Rafinha play as the full backs, but unlike the previous match against Inter Milan, they did not need to go forward and join in the attack as frequently. Their main job was to defend.
As for Ibišević and Şahin, they were asked to s.n.a.t.c.h the ball back despite being more attack-oriented players. Ibišević also has to return to the penalty box during set pieces to help in the defense and head the ball away for his team.
Netherlands' football is to either go all out in offense or defense. Tony Twain's football is to go all out in defense and only half in offense. It is easy to see why others say he only cares about results…
Inter Milan had no way of breaking through Nottingham Forest's st.u.r.dy defense after losing Quaresma.
The key to breaking the deadlock during a battle between two top teams in football could lie in the manager's ability to make changes based on the situation on the pitch, the players' individual performances, one counterattack, one set piece or one mistake from the opponent.
Sadly, none of the aforementioned factors happened up to the end of the first half. Both managers wanted a more solid performance from their team, and they sought to make the least number of mistakes while they waited for the other party to make an error. The players for both teams were not able to s.h.i.+ne due to the restrictions present in the tactics that their managers have chosen.
When the first half ended, Mourinho's face had gone dark, whereas Twain carried a smile on his face.
If things continue in the way that they have in the first half, then Nottingham Forest would definitely progress to the next round!