Monday
Sep172018

Lions FC continued their disastrous CVSA league form with a 3-1 loss to start the Fall 2018 season. In contrast, Partizan continued where they left off after the Cup Final win, with a sparkling performance as they outplayed Lions in a lively contest at Glover Park. 

Starting lineup vs. Lions FC

Score: Partizan Richmond 3 - 1 Lions FC
Etienne          (assist Montero)12 mins
Kramolowsky (assist Escobar) 31 mins
Cooke            (no assist) 79 mins

Bastien Etienne’s first goal for the club opened the scoring after 12 minutes, the Haitian finishing off a slick counter that went from the halfway line to the net in three touches, Johnny Bustillo with the assist.

The Lions responded with a well worked goal which brought the sides level after 17 minutes.

Kramolowsky got his first of the season in the 31st minute, from just inside the six yard box after a fine effort from Escobar was spilled by the Lions keeper.

Bill Cooke, powered in a driven effort off the far post, to finish up a great solo run and make it 3 with 15 minutes to go in the second half. 3 pts and a well deserved victory.

The result was emphatic even if the score line did not reflect it with Partizan passing up a number of chances to add to their tally and Lions being restricted to just two shots on target the whole game.

Partizan were unbeaten in preseason before Sunday's match and had lost only won once in the last 24 games. Indeed if they are able to cut out the handful of individual errors and missed chances, the unbeaten run looks likely continue into the foreseeable future.

Even in the game's latter stages they continued to pour forward with confidence but could still not find the net, Harrison Wyatt rattling the crossbar from close range after a fine Jose Callejas cross. 

Victory puts Partizan at the top of the league with Sporting and the Xrams.

Lions outplayed, outfinished

It would be hard on Lions to say they played badly on the whole - and nothing should be taken from the quality of Partizan’s composed display - but there certainly were individual errors to pick out.

The Lions were lucky to escape punishment on the break after the midfield was caught in possession and with the defense exposed; Etienne missed the target from close range. Later, Montero was given time and space at the back and it was him that fed Bustillo who flicked the ball onto the big Haitian to net for the first goal. A fine finish from the big man, the ball dropping over his shoulder before riffling a dipping volley over the Keeper from 16 yards.

Bustillo was withdrawn just before half-time in an attacking change, with last year’s player of the year Escobar replacing him. It was the Bruja who was given space at the top of the box and his pile-driver was spilled by the keeper for the second goal.

The Lions side looked more switched on after the break, but here they came up against a team who were simply far fitter, sharper and organized, especially in the midfield and at the back.

In the first half, Faulkner and Montero looked especially comfortable, with the veteran Costa Rican commanding the back four to great aplomb. Jerkovic and Williams also moved the ball across the back well and supported as wingers, overlapping at every opportunity. Kramolowsky playing for the first time injury free in months also looked fit and it was his marauding run and follow up finish that gave Partizan the lead again at 2-1.

Another player who had a great impact on the game was Ariel Bonilla who last season played a bit part and was largely a substitute. After a good preseason, this young man has stepped his game up and partnering with Ramon Campos helped the Partizan boys get a grip in the midfield. His tireless running and tough tackles supported Campos’ smarts; as the two killed the Lions passing game in the second half. This was the platform and catalyst for the Partizan boys to attack both flanks and force the Lions players to cough the ball up with uncharacteristic regularity.

The boys in black had 24 attempts, with 15 of those on target. The Lions limited to just 4 shots, 2 on target, converting 1. 

Summer Transfers

Roach has supplemented his squad in the summer with 8 new signings. The core of the team remains intact and with messers Dupka, Urbanik, Wyatt, Etienne, Cooke, Vaughter, Dhillon and Coric, joining a solid and well-oiled machine, the future looks very bright. 

Perhaps the best signing of all isn’t new at all but a rejuvenated stalwart. Saul Montero in his new role at the back looked as accomplished as any top flight center-back. Controlling the shape and pushing the full backs on, he was pivotal to the success of the team. His range of passing and reading of the game is second to none and Roach will be excited to see his calm and experience spreading throughout the team as the season unfolds. 

With 2 new signings scoring on their debut, Partizan looks to have assimilated its players quickly to the style and formation that has seen so much success over the past 2 seasons.

Next week they play LOKO FC. If this game was anything to go by it won’t be long before the scores become bigger and the margins wider as Partizan looks forward to another trophy filled season.

Man of the match - Saul Montero

Combative and creative, the Costa Rican put in a performance worthy of the accolade. At the heart of what his side did well, he made the most passes bringing the ball forward into the opposition half. He had the most key passes and interceptions killing the Lions momentum and turning defense into attack at every opportunity.

Monday
Aug272018

Partizan beat Absolute FC to win back to back CVSA Cup titles breaking 18 year old curse

Score: Partizan Richmond FC 2 – 0 Absolute B.C.

D. Pierce 2

John Roachs’ side took the lead mid-way through the second half through Devin Pierce’s ferocious left foot drive and secured the title with 13 minutes to go when Pierce was on hand again to hammer home his, and Partizan’s second, in what became a one sided affair.

Absolute proved a stubborn team to break down, with Partizan passing up a number of chances to take the lead in the first half and toiling in the final 3rd , the winners of last season’s Copa Bruce were content to be compact and play counter attack football. The tactics were initially successful but fell short at the final hurdle, killing any chance of fairytale end to the season as they ultimately were no match for the Premier League regular season winners.

After losing 1-0 to the XRams in a league playoff final, Roach’s Partizan were eager to claim the silverware they deserved from a sparkling season. One in which a single upset loss was the only blemish on what would have been a perfect run. To add to the drama, it had been a stop, start cup final considering the previous cup final game had been abandoned due to inclement weather after 20 mins with Partizan a goal ahead at City Stadium.

Starting again at 0-0 and after a 5 week break Partizan couldn’t wait to get the game played and regain the CVSA Cup trophy.

Winning this cup final would remove any disappointment from the playoff loss and enhance their reputation as one of the most successful clubs in CVSA history taking their CVSA Cup total to 4 in a 10 year club existence.

Although Absolute had a few encouraging moments early on, when Partizan’s defense looked vulnerable to the physicality of their two quick front men, any optimism was short lived. The back four quickly settled down and the midfield took control of the game. It took only took 4 minutes to create the first real chance and start the first of a few long periods of possession. A lovely ball out to the right was hammered passed the post by Margulis as he opted for power rather than placement when a little composure might have been the better option. Similarly there were missed chances for Callejas and Escobar as Pierce initially found space but the Absolute players reacted to close down the space, defending in numbers and dropping deeper.

It wasn’t until the second half, as the Absolute players became tired, that Partizan began to make the Russians pay for their inability to cause any real offensive threat. Except for a couple of miss-placed passes Absolute had been limited in possession and had rarely threatened the Partizan goal. The game was getting stretched and when Roach introduced Lyonnais and Bustillo into the midfield and moved to a wider setup playing with 2 out and out wingers in Gwaikolo and Granados, these players were able to exploit the space between the lines.

With 25 minutes to go the switches had their affect; Pierce collected a wonderful through ball from Gwaikolo, burst between two Absolute players touched the ball forward and then rifled a sumptuous shot into the far left-hand corner of the net. Much to the delight of the Partizan bench and supporters! it was the goal that they had been waiting for.

This season has seen all sorts of gongs bestowed on Ramon Campos and all manner of tributes for his team-mates Frankie Escobar and Devon Pierce. All deserved. They have been excellent this season.

Also impressive was Carlos Valasquez, playing in goals for the absent Ryan MacArthur. The long serving Partizan veteran secured a 4th CVSA Cup winners medal having appeared in every Partizan final win since 2010-11. Carlos has been the winning keeper on 3 of those occasions and is the only Partizan player to have played in all 4 winning squads. A true team player and versatile beyond belief, we look forward to our Mexican talisman helping is win more trophies in the years ahead.

Bustillo’s contribution has been huge, too. He's a such clever player, a guy for big occasions such as this, his guile and movement definitely causes problems but it was other players on this day who provided the spark when needed, showing that Partizan truly is a great team and a sum of its total parts.

The boys in black went 2-0 ahead 12 minutes later and again it was a sweet strike from Pierce that did the job. This time it was a cutback from the right after some excellent hold-up play and midfield movement, Absolute were unable to cope with the danger they were in, and their tired legs and indecision set it all up.

Zaghuir who had come on for the last 15 minutes was hungry for the ball and always, was a nuisance to Absolute. His tireless running in support and aerial presence was bullying the back four and with 4 minutes to go he got on the end of a Granados cross to score what the bench thought was the 3rd goal. Again it was great work down the line and with a lofted ball that evaded the tallest central defender Zaghuir was there with a powerful header. The jubilation turned quickly to anguish as the linesman’s flag went up to deny the big Colombian his goal. It was a great finish and the applause and cheers from the crowd were well deserved, regardless of its illegitimacy.

Partizan were playing with fluency now with the two goal cushion providing the confidence for them to step up and push forward. Maletic who had come on at right back was particularly effective, stopping any potential movement down the left flank and was directly involved in the second goal, forming a great partnership with the marauding Granados. Maletic himself letting fly and coming close on a couple of occasions as Partizan came forward in waves.

The final whistle blew with only a couple of injury time minutes played, bringing to an end a very long, very frustrating but very successful season. They had done their work, in fairness. Not just in this cup final, but in the League before it and how their supporters enjoyed and took part in the celebrations at the end.

Back to back cup winners. History men. This domestic season may not have been as thunderously impressive as seasons gone by, but when the ref blew his final whistle, it confirmed the same glorious end result. Not invincible this time, but unstoppable all the same.

Monday
May072018

Partizan back on track with sensational cup win against Eagles to book date at City Stadium

Partizan Richmond FC 3 – 2 Screaming Eagles FC
(Campos 57 mins)
(Faulkner 69 mins)
(Pierce 75 mins)

In what was a repeat of the 2017 cup final, Partizan were taking on the Screaming Eagles for the 2nd time in 4 weeks. Having won the previous meeting 3-1 in the league, in what was a hotly contested, incident filled game; the boys in black were playing a Screaming team that were clear favorites and full of confidence having hammered Richmond Celtic FC 3-0 in the 3rd & 4th position playoff. By contrast, Partizan were still reeling from the disappointment of last week’s 1-0 loss against the X-Rams.

Missing a plethora of players due to injury and suspension, we would be forced once again to field a “make shift” back 4 with Saverese and Gomez being drafted in to cover Right Back and Center back respectively. Montero and Faulkner held their spots after commanding performances in the loss to the X-Rams.

Post warm up and a valued consultation with Asst. Manager Elvir Maletic, Roach lined the boys up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Tactically similar to the team deployed against the Rams, the boys were looking to build on last week’s good performance but ensure that chances were taken to make the 2018 Final. Knowing that the pace and quality of the midfield/forward line would be the key to success for the Eagles, a flawless defensive display would be required by our boys to ensure victory.

It was a truly unfamiliar feeling for Partizan to come in as underdogs but, with the Eagles top class squad it was one that was fitting prior to kickoff.

Welcoming back Margulis into the starting line-up, the first 15 minutes had Partizan dominating possession; Callejas and Escobar finding space wide but, unable to get in behind and breakdown the Eagles defense. The first real chance of the game came from a set piece which Montero stepped up and bent towards the top corner only for the keeper to touch over the bar spectacularly.

Callejas was finding it difficult to get traction down the left and with Escobar defending deep on the right, it was up to Bustillo and Campos to try and create something through the middle. In all honesty with clear cut chances being scares, it looked like a set piece would be the mostly likely source of a goal. 3 minutes before half time it was. Unfortunately for Partizan it was for the Eagles.

Braxton was unable to control a clearance from MacArthur down the right touchline and as the Eagles winger sprinted forward at pace, Saverese could only clear the ball out for a corner. From the resulting kick, the ball was swung into the 6 yard box where it wasn’t dealt with by the Partizan defenders, breaking off the shin of Saverese and dropping kindly for the Eagles midfielder to hook the ball goal wards and into the top corner from 5 yards.

There was nothing Saverese or MacArthur could do and the finish, although from close range, was executed brilliantly. Fair play to the Eagles side who were equal and more to Partizan in terms of effort and determination. It was a hammer blow so close to half time for the boys in black and also a mental blow as one single small mistake had let the opposition in. Similar to last weekend’s result.

Was history about to repeat itself for a second week running?

It was clear that if Partizan were to win this game, they were going to have to step up the effort and intensity as the referee brought proceedings to a close. Gomez and Faulkner had played brilliantly in the first half and save for the unfortunate bounce, the boys could be forgiven for feeling unlucky to go in behind. The only issue Roach would have had with his team was the limited chances created and as such a call for greater speed of play and focus down the touchlines was the half-time instruction.

The Partizan players crowded in for the familiar huddle with various calls to dig in and make it happen in what could be, the final 45 minutes of the season. As has been the case so many times the boys looked united and you could feel the lift as they took the field for the second half.

The opening 10 minutes saw Partizan begin to widen the field with Callejas finally starting to find space on the left. Both fullbacks were now beginning to get forward and the Eagles back 4 were beginning to defend deeper and deeper. Pierce was also having a better time holding the ball upfront as the lone striker. His work rate unmatched and is physical presence causing serious problems for the tiring Eagles backline.

12 minutes into the second half and Partizan were level. Some great work on the left allowed Callejas to isolate the right back, the ball was fed into Pierce who in a move similar to the Eagles league meeting, found Campos. The hard-nosed Mexican then showed great composure to control the ball, step forward and lob the ball into the far corner of the net. On the balance of play, it was no less than the boys deserved.

The increased work rate and sheer desire was having an effect, the goal came as relief to the sideline and buoyed by the equalizer, Partizan surged forward looking for the winner. Escobar and Bustillo were now in their element as the extra space was allowing them to run at the Eagles back line. Margulis had really stepped up his presence in the midfield had a couple of good efforts, first saved by the outstretched hand of the keeper and then deflected wide from 30 yards as his patented right foot drive looked destined for the bottom corner. The tails were certainly up and on 69 minutes we took the lead.

Escobar was clipped as he danced past the left back, producing a free kick 25 yards out on the left side of the box. Needing an in-swinger, Callejas stepped up and bent a lovely ball round the wall and with keeper unsighted the ball could only be palmed back into the 6 yard box for Faulkner to slam home his 2nd of the season and put the boys in-front. The big captains goal was met with sheer jubilation as the supporters, players and coaching staff celebrated with conviction. Relief had turned to belief and with Gomez, Montero and Saverese having super games, we looked on track for the final.

The Eagles looked shell shocked and 6 minutes later it was 3. Bustillo let fly from 25 yards with a screaming effort which the keeper did brilliantly to turn onto the bar. Pierce was first to the ball and with a powerful header hit the cross bar for a second time. As the ball cannoned back, the powerful big striker followed through on his headed effort to lash the ball past the keeper from 8 yards sending the Partizan faithful into delirium.

It was harsh on an Eagles team who were causing problems as they went forward and had worked hard to shut down the boys in black. With just over 15 mins to go however, it looked like Partizan had booked their place in the final but this was where the drama was just beginning.

The Partizan backline was clearly tiring and with the 3rd goal, the Eagles team became galvanized and came to life. The Partizan midfield and back four began to have real trouble maintaining possession. Normally assured with the ball at feet, as soon as it was won, there was 2 or 3 players shutting them down. Screaming were taking control of the game and creating real chances. Twice when through with the keeper to beat and it took great goalkeeping and last ditch defending to clear the ball as it looked like Screaming would score. Similarly on the one occasion when Saverese lost his man, a fine cut back from the edge of the box found an unmarked striker who took a good first touch but watched agonizingly as his side foot finish went just past the stranded McArthurs far post. It was truly all hands to the pump as the Screaming players ran again and again at the Partizan backline.

As time ticked down, with 9 minutes to go, Screaming finally pulled one back. The ball was played down on the right touchline and missing a couple of chances to clear the ball was won just outside the box by a very lively and fleet footed Screaming striker. After beating one defender into the box and racing to the byline, he was brought down by the exhausted Montero who stepped across the player to win the ball. It was a clumsy but unintentional challenge which brought cry’s from both sidelines. A very similar challenge earlier in the second half on Escobar had gone unpunished. It was a penalty for sure and if truth be told, what the Screaming team deserved for their endeavor and fortitude.

The ball was dispatched from the spot with great aplomb and suddenly things looked uncertain for the Partizan boys with a very nervy 8 minutes to play. Screaming were definitely on the ascendancy and looked threatening until a moment of sheer madness killed the game for them. After another fine attack, the ball was driven into the Partizan box from the right wing. Clearing everyone it fell to Escobar tucking in at right back, he put his foot on the ball to shield just by the corner flagged. Having been hemmed in by the Screaming left midfielder and full back, Escobar was stuck, trying hard to maintain control and not lose the ball In a dangerous position. A minute or so passed with the little El Salvadorian working hard to stand tall and maintain possession, while being jockeyed by the two Screaming players. Just as it looked like he might lose the ball, the tall Screaming striker raced into the middle of the stramash and lashed out with a wild swing of his right boot, landing a terrible clatter on his own player and reducing the 3 players around the ball to a crumpled heap.

Truly it was a disgraceful and unwarranted challenge with the striker receiving a straight red and injuring his own player in the process. This killed the momentum and allowed Roach to make a couple of key substitutions replacing Montero with Maletic and Gwaikolo with Pierce to see out the remaining 7 minutes, plus the additional 4 of injury time.

Pierce almost made it 4-2 when, being played in by Campos, lobbed the keeper only to see the ball drop just wide of the post with just 2 minutes of normal time left. That would have surely ended the game. It was Partizans last meaningful possession but as time expired there was time for one more Screaming attack.

Maletic who was beaten for pace, was smart enough to foul his mark on the halfway line to waste time and kill the game. The resulting free kick was lofted into the box and subsequently cleared for a corner. As the ball was flighted in the impressive Gomez was first to the loose ball, clearing to the left where the impressive Bustillo was able to gather and run into the opposing half to maintain possession until the Ref blew the full-time whistle.

Roach was relieved and delighted to hear the final whistle as the season would now continue with another visit to U of R stadium in June to defend the CVSA trophy that the boys in black had won last year.
It was a brilliant game, fit for any final and with these two teams going hard at each other, it seemed a shame that one should be the loser.

The celebrations were short but poignant as the Partizan boys quickly turned their attention to the final and the preparations ahead. It has been a great season with so many wonderful performances and moments, all eyes will now be on U of R stadium to see if it can finish it off with some well-deserved silverware.

Friday
May042018

Dominant Partizan fall to xrams in end of season bedlam

Partizan Richmond FC 0 – 1 XRams FC

Having finished the regular league season with a 5 – 0 – 2 record, you would forgive some of the Partizan players for believing that the league was won. However, having beaten Richmond Celtic 3-1, the week prior in the play-off semi -finals the boys in black were again called to play in another “winner takes the league” game, facing the X-rams (3-1-3) in a Play-off – “Cup final for the league”.

Partizan finished 5 pts clear at the top but, were forced to take on a very different Rams team from the one they beat back in March. Missing some key players for this game, Partizan lined up hoping to avoid a slip up that would cost them their deserved league title.

The game started with Roach employing a 4-2-3-1 lineup. Looking to stifle the Rams midfield and to push the ball though the talented and relentless wingers of Escobar and Callejas; patience and ruthlessness in front of goal was going to be the key to success.

As has been the pattern in recent games, Partizan enjoyed a large share of the possession and had the first shot at goal in 4 minutes. Escobar found space on the right and managed to get the ball into the box, only for Callejas to be beaten to the header. The ball dropped for McAvoy who was unable to take the chance, hesitating when well placed 8 yrds out.

The game was beginning to progress as expected with a large majority of the play being pushed through the center of the field. Both teams trading possession as a lack of space meant limited time on the ball. The Rams back four looked confident in the air as the Partizan midfield probed, looking to get in behind and exploit the wings.

The Partizan back four had a makeshift look to it with a number of key players missing, one of which being Kramoloswsky. Filling in at left back was Saul Montero. The veteran Partizan player has played in a number of positions this season, including keeper at one point. It was this performance against the Rams that really caught the eye. Always a leader, always willing to step up Montero, was absolutely flawless from the start of the game to the full-time whistle. He was an absolute rock and inspiration but, If inspirational was the best way to describe him then unlucky would be the best way to describe the game’s final outcome.

17 minutes into the first half the Rams took the lead. After a spell of pressure, a long ball was played into the Partizan box. It wasn’t dealt with fully and a miscommunication between keeper and fullback resulted in an inadvertent clearance to an XRams player. Unfortunately with the Partizan keeper having shouted and come out to retrieve the ball, he had the easiest tasks, rolling the ball into the open net. It was a blow to the boys in black as all indications were that we were beginning to get control.

The boys dug deep for the next 15 minutes, and with a couple of changes being required; Bodie, coming off with an injury and then McAvoy replaced by Manneh, things began to become more urgent to get an equalizer. Campos and Pierce were pushing higher up the field and Manneh was causing issues with his pace and athleticism.

Again, just as Partizan looked like they were getting on top, Manneh found himself at the center of a flashpoint. A bad foul on Escobar caused players to get involved in squaring up and with several Rams players running onto the field and with Campos being Grabbed round the neck, things got out of hand. The provocation was unwarranted and a true indication of the nature of the game. One team had come to play, the other there to steal a title.

It took a clear 10 minutes for the officials to get order with the end result a red card for both teams. Manneh was shown a straight red for violent conduct, an Xrams player shown the same. The game petered out until half time with strangely no additional time played for the stoppage. The Rams seemed to be relieved to get to half time, Roach similarly eager to get the boys in to re-group and organize for the second half.

With a renewed vigor, the second half started promisingly with Partizan maintaining long periods of possession. Pushing up and forcing the Rams into mistakes, the extra space was an advantage for the boys in black. Escobar using the space and with Bustillo moving to the left side, both wings were producing crosses. We were starting to find space in behind. All that was missing was that final touch or finish. As had been the case in previous weeks, Partizan was lacking that killer touch to finish off some outstanding play.

Save for a couple of brief spells, it was almost all Partizan, with the Rams happy to defend deep and ride their luck. The Rams keeper was also in inspirational form coming to rescue on a couple of occasions saving first from Pierce, then from Lyonnais who had a wonderful 30 yard drive tipped over the bar. The Rams bench was becoming more and more animated as the boys poured forward looking for that goal, that all important first goal.

Time was ticking down and it was looking more and more likely that it would not be Partizan’s day. It was with 15 minutes to go, perhaps the best chance of the game was met with a world class save from the Rams keeper. Bustillo had been fouled on the left wing and whipping in a lovely ball the onrushing Escobar glanced a diving header which, at full stretch was touched onto the post by the big keeper. Racing in Cakovic looked to have the easiest of tasks but from 3 yards inexplicably rolled his foot over the ball, allowing the sliding defender to clear only as far as Pierce who couldn’t force the ball back across the face of goal. It was beginning to look grim for Partizan.

Roach played the final roll of the dice playing 3 at the back and putting on the talisman that is Zaghuir. The boys were giving everything. Further good movement and link up play allowed Zaghuir to teed up Campos who hammered wide from the edge of the box. Again the boys poured forward in numbers. The final chance of the game came in the last 3 minutes when McAvoy chested a lovely through ball onto Zaghuir, who beat his man and drove into the box. Lifting his head and aiming for the far corner, the big man opened his hips to finish, only for the Rams keeper to once again produce heroics ending what would have been a brilliant goal and almost certainly Partizans chances of getting back on level terms. It was just one of those games.

When the whistle finally sounded, you could feel the relief and disappointment from the respective teams. Partizan had been undone by a mixture of outstanding goalkeeping, questionable refereeing and a very unusual league format.

Post-game, the lads looked despondent, but as is so many times the case in football, the score line did not tell the story of the game. Partizan had worked hard and deserved something from the match and more importantly had been outstanding all season and deserved to pick up the cup. Unfortunately that was not to be but, the boys can be extremely proud of their performance.

With a cup semifinal to play next weekend the boys will need to pick themselves up quickly and get back on the winning trail.

Next game Screaming Eagles – CVSA Cup Semi-Finals.

 

Tuesday
Apr242018

Partizan beat Richmond Celtic to make post season league playoff finals 

Partizan Richmond 3 – 1 Richmond Celtic FC.

(T. Manneh (PK) 16 mins)

(F. Escobar 56 mins)

(D. Pierce 88 mins)

They say that life is cyclical and this season certainly has become that way with the addition of playoffs to the traditional and normal league format. With Partizan winning the regular season title last week, it was time to turn to a playoff semi-finals where they would be taking on Richmond Celtic FC at Bryan Park.

Having played Celtic in the first game of the season, this was always going to be a tricky tie with the boys in Black looking to continue their unbeaten run with a second victory over the hoops.

Partizan warmed up well, with keeper McArthur, passing a late fitness test to take his place between the sticks. Palma, similarly was put thru his paces and narrowly missed out, being relegated to a place on the bench.

The starting lineup was looking rather familiar with the exception of last week’s hero’s Escobar and Bustillo, starting on the sideline due to tactical reasons.

Celtic, shooting from left to right were in their customary green and white hoops and looking eager to get the game underway, as Scottish manager McNicol opting for a more defensive and counter attack posture set his stall out from the start. This was going to be a cracker!

The early exchanges showed the reason for Celtics tactical nuance as Partizan held more than 70% of the possession. Prodding and probing the Celtic back four, playing wide and getting in behind, Partizan went close with the Celtic keeper making some great saves in the first 10 minutes. Partizan had 5 corners which Celtic did well to repel but it was looking like just a matter of time, when the first goal arrived.

Similar to the first game of the season the opening goal came from the penalty spot. McAvoy starting upfront with Manneh, received a lovely ball up the line from Montero. Turning his man and making his way into the box, McAvoy danced past the left back before cutting inside a center back, only to have his legs clipped just as he was about to pull the trigger. A clear penalty as the diminutive Scotsman looked well placed to score his 3rd goal in as many games.

Manneh stepped up and nonchalantly stroked the ball into the bottom corner to give his team the lead. With only 16 minutes played it looked like being a long afternoon for the Celtic Keeper and backline.

Celtic re-doubled their efforts after losing the goal and Partizan were again guilty of passing up chances to finish the game off with Manneh, Margulis and Saverese all going close. On all occasions’ either not finding the target or the Celtic keeper up to the task with some great saves. Pierce was guilty of perhaps the worst miss as a lovely ball from Bonilla from the right found the big striker all alone in the box with plenty of time, only for him to tamely pass the ball past the post with his left foot from 8 yards out. From the sideline, it looked harder to miss!

Unable to turn the possession and pressure into goals, the half-time whistle came with McArthur being more of a spectator than participant. Celtic were beginning to believe that a set piece or mistake would let them into the game and the tactical setup would yield the maximum return. Mc Nicol had marshalled his troops well.

Roach was very vocal at half-time, calling for his players to keep concentration and at minimum focus on continuing to play wide and stretch the game.

Celtic switched to five in the middle for the second half and Roach once again rotated his front six to exploit the width and isolate the fullbacks. With Escobar moving to left midfield and Manneh once again running up top. It took only 6 second half minutes for Partizan to score their second with Escobar notching his 6th goal of the season.

The free-flowing movement of the Partizan team was causing problems and with Escobar drifting in from the wing, Celtic were struggling to gain a foothold in the game. A lovely through ball was half cleared by the Celtic back four dropping to the feet of the talented El Salvadorian and after taking a good touch inside, his first shot was blocked. As the ball came back to him from the rebound, he side volleyed a rocket of a shot, rifling the ball into the far-left corner of the net, giving the Celtic keeper no chance!

Another fantastic goal and sublime finish from the man that has affectionately become known as Bruja! (The witch).

It was a goal when it was needed most and from a player that has consistently delivered for his team this season.

Partizan again were picking up where they left off in the first half –dominating the possession and creating chances. Unfortunately, like first half, also missing them too. Manneh again, after some great work, was finding space and time and when through with the keeper to beat was unable to convert. Partizan were made to pay for their lack of ruthlessness.

Cakovic and Bodie, looking comfortable as a central defensive partnership, were playing confidently and with the fullbacks being able push forward there didn’t seem to be any danger of losing a goal. With 20 minutes to go this all changed as a long ball by the Celtic right back looked to have been dealt with, only for the right winger to get to the ball and the byline first, driving a ball into the near post which was touched in by the lone Celtic striker.

Truly a bubble burst for the Partizan players as a moment of complacency brought new life and impetus into what was a dead Celtic team.

For the next 15 minutes, the game became back and forth as both teams went at each other, looking for the goal that would kill or build the confidence to create a winner. Again, Roach shuffled his players with Braxton first providing good delivery and then a lovely cushioned header from the right only for the Celtic back four to clear up field. A couple of Celtic corners resulted and caused some anxiety as McArthur first punched clear and then came and gathered to calm the nerves and give some respite.

Celtic were looking the more lively of the two teams going into the last 10 minutes but, with 4 minutes to go Pierce converted a lovely Granados cross into the box, first controlling then swiveling the hammer past the keeper from 3 yards to finally calm the nerves and give Partizan the victory and a place in the Final.

The goal sparked a flurry on the sideline as Roach put on an additional sub on to kill the game bringing on Advic for a cameo appearance at left back.

The final whistle came to bring to an end another good team performance and on the balance of play a very well-deserved result however, Partizan will need to ensure that they take their chances and keep concentration if they are to win the Final next weekend against a very talented and tough Xrams team.

Man of the Match was Ramon Campos for his commanding display in the center midfield. His leadership and steel providing the platform for the boys in Black to progress to the championship game.