By Paul Douglas Grant
AJ Auxerre has not been living up to last years expectations. Their previously impenetrable defense has become more than perforated and they have been consistently losing or tying for the first seven weeks of the Ligue 1 Championnat. Equally their mediocre Champions League performance thus far has been keeping AJA supporters begging for better efforts. Tuesday’s C1 game against Real Madrid nearly gave the supporters a reason to cheer. While possession was largely dominated by Madrid, AJA’s handling of the ball when they had possession was reminiscent of last year’s team. Jelen showed himself to be in form though still with only 1 goal for the season and Pedretti while perhaps not at his best kept the supporters hope up for much of the match.
But given the imbalance in the general performance and qualities of the two teams AJA was exceptional, often exasperating Madrid. But the Di Maria goal at 81 minutes (unfairly set into motion by a specious arm from Ramos) knocked the win out of the sails of AJA’s “almost” best tie. The goal was immediately followed by Traore’s yellow card as the game degenerated quickly and this year’s Auxerre curse continued to plague the team.
There is something about the Auxerrois that, while no doubt in bad shape, they seem to gesture towards a possibility of being a truly great team. Their problem is that they are almost always “almost” a great team. Intricate combinations bring them before the net but the ball just doesn’t get in. The defense can keep back Ronaldo and co. for 81 minutes, but then 81 minutes is only “almost” 90 and in that last 9 (4+) minutes they “almost” tied, meaning, ultimately, they lost.