Aswijan Assignment: Part 4 – All The Giant-Killing

Welcome back to the Aswijan Assignment, a Football Manager 2020 save in the fictional country of Aswijan – using a database created by @Chilled_Moose.

Life in Aswijan is off to a surprisingly good start. Trebor Mahtal was even able to reward the Zagora Athletik boys with a trip into the luscious delights of the Marinna Rainforest that surrounds us in the state of Elisha.

However, the wonderful wildlife, creepy crawlies and fancy fauna need to be put to the back of their minds as we set about continuing our unexpected push for promotion from Liga Dukh. Moving into 2020 with 14 games remaining we occupy the second of two promotion places on 63 points. We are 3 points behind table-toppers Kasra, 4 points clear of 3rd place Neim and 9 points clear of Ben Garrés in 7th.

We marked the start of a new year by making our first signing, albeit a loan deal, as 17-year-old left-back Eden Rose came in from Liga Regale (top tier) club Aldaia. Two more loan deals followed, backup goalkeeper Savino Hamina to cover for our number one being ruled out for 8 months and attacking midfielder/striker Pieter-Jan Ibarluzea. I’m not expecting fireworks, they’re just here to add depth to our squad.

We also made a bit more money by selling backup centre-back Rene Cicereius to Liga Principale (2nd tier) side Tarac Unidi for an impressive £500k. He’d only played 3 times for us… but did get an assist on his debut for his new club at a higher level.

Our first game of 2020 was at home to mid-table Ashab Unidi, who got off to a flyer by scoring in the third minute. Trebor went for pee and by the time he’d returned his side had gotten down to business by overturning the deficit through two goals from 17-year-old winger Martin Goronda.

David vs. Goliath clash

The Copa Azore had dealt us possibly the toughest tie possible as we were drawn with Liga Regale side Aswijan Siti. To put it in context, it’s a bit like Accrington Stanley being drawn against Manchester City in the third round of the FA Cup. We could take one hell of a beating. Having said that, we were only 9-1 win while Siti were 1-4, so not impossible but obviously not easy.

And there’ll be a bit of our difference for our boys who go from playing at our crappy, 43-year-old 3,145 capacity Ard Pinnacle to the 80,000 all-seater, brand spanking new Ard Sunaren in the capital Aswijan City.

Siti lined up with a very odd looking 3-4-2-1 formation with two defensive midfielders but got themselves a penalty after 10 minutes. However, the big man Daniele Chunso stood big to deny attacking midfielder Sasa Zadeh. Siti continued to attack and forced Chunso into several more saves but we hung on to go into half-time level at 0-0.

I told the lads that we were performing well and we continued to repel Siti’s attacks, I went a little more defensive and made a few changes but they didn’t really threaten too much and we held on to draw 0-0, which meant extra-time.

Siti had an early chance to score as their substitute striker, the £45 million-rated Tawfeeq Kashyap, raced through but £375k-valued Chunso again stood firm to tip his shot onto the post. I asked for creativity, pushed us up to Cautious and it stayed 0-0. Then, with 3 minutes of extra-time remaining I thought sod it “Demand More” and we immediately had our first highlight.

From a throw-in on the left we worked the ball inside and midfielder Frances Cafiero stepped up to drill the ball home from 25 yards. Watch it below. We’d achieved the impossible and defeated the Liga Regale side in their own gaff! And, Chunso played an 8.3 and earned player of the match, which I don’t think any of my goalkeepers have ever achieved on FM!

Liga takes centre stage

Cafiero was at it again as he smashed in a free-kick after 8 minutes against Zaratiy Oskat, then Tiberius Olivero doubled the lead on half-time. The visitors came out flying and swiftly got back to 2-2 after the break but, because it’s Aswijan, we won a late penalty and substitute Metello Ardito stepped up to convert the winner.

We then snuck past the hot pink shirts of Rayara with Michalis Saivaldsson’s first league goal and a late header from makeshift right-winger Fokionas Caito sealing a 2-1 win. It’s safe to say the goals weren’t exactly flowing but we were doing just enough to churn out narrow wins, as another 2-1 win then two 1-0s saw us rack up eight in a row.

We then lost 1-0 at Ouarrik Oskat but bounced back by thumping Zaan 4-0 inspired by an Ardito brace and a first league goal for right-winger Tullus Kalkan, who’d just returned from 4 months out with a damaged achilles.

Another 1-0 at home to SC Mufala was followed by a 3-2 defeat at third-placed Ben Garrés, which saw them close to within 4 points of us. However, we blasted away any concerns by bouncing back with a 4-1 hammering of Anorora Kuduqni led by Tiberius Olivero’s 23rd goal of the season and a brace from Caito. That sent us top of the league with one game in hand and four remaining, while Olivero won the Adelan di la Mes (striker of the month) for March.

Cup heroics continue

Our reward for defeating Aswijan Siti was Neim, the only other remaining Liga Dukh side in the quarter-finals, away – for which they were also huge favourites. Our players were exhausted and we lost 2-1, with Chunso again having a blinder making a host of saves on his way to an 8.1. Then I realised there was annoyingly a second leg, so I rested loads of players and we lost 2-1 again.

However, we were still alive in the Copa Dukh, in which we weren’t even expected to get through the group stage earlier in the season. We edged past Anorora Kuduqni in the quarter-finals thanks to a 3-1 success in the home leg, then an Ardito goal secured a 1-0 at home to Al Khnidés before another Cafiero screamer earned a 2-2 away to send us through to the Final!

The final, unusually, took place on 4 April while we still had 4 league games remaining. We were up against Awjizirbu FC but winger Martin Goronda picked up a knock a week or so before so we left him on the bench but other than that we were full strength. We were by far the better team, with almost three times as many shots, but couldn’t convert our chances and it finished 0-0, which meant extra-time.

As luck would have it, Awjizirbu took the lead 4 minutes into the extra period but that man Goronda, playing on one leg, came off the bench to pull us level after 104 minutes. And the game headed to penalties.

This cup uses the strange penalties system where the team shooting second takes two in a row. Awjizirbu went first and scored, we scored both of ours, and they repeated the feat to make it 3-2. Cafiero smashed one home then Saivaldsson coolly slotted home to pile the pressue on. And the opponents cracked under it as Chunso missed the first then their young centre-back smashed one wide.

Zagora Athletik were the Copa Dukh winners and my board were delighted – claiming it was “a truly momentous occasion!” It wasn’t the first and it certainly wasn’t the last.

Liga Dukh finale

Going into our final four league games we needed around 6 points to confirm promotion. However, the first three were all away from home.

First, we were away to 17th-placed Bahyid who were massive favourites, which tells you a lot about how much we’re overachieving this season. Chunso got food poisoning 2 days before the game then our only left back was suspended, so I was pleased to come away from the match with a 1-1 draw.

We then went to At Khnidés (again) and another tight game was decided by a moment of brilliance from Olivero. Nice play down the left saw Goronda pass to the striker, who turned and fired home from 25 yards for his 25th goal of the season. That put us top and five points clear of third, meaning we were one point away from promotion.

Our final away game of the season was at lowly Hesef and it was yet another game in which not a lot happened and neither team was really creating much. We wasted a few chances but got barely any highlights, but a 0-0 draw was enough to seal promotion! Annoyingly, Kasra scored a 91st-minute winner that put them top on goal difference.

The Zagora board and fans were rightfully delighted with an “unbelievable” achievement. And, to put this in context, the board weren’t expecting us to challenge for promotion until the third season and we were predicted to finish in 12th at the start of the campaign.

We lost our final game of the season 3-2, even though Olivero scored twice, which handed the title to Kasra but I’m thoroughly chuffed to have finished second and secured promotion to Liga Principale at the first attempt!

Join us next time as we look back on an exciting and unexpectedly successful first season in Aswijan. We’d beaten one of the best teams in the country in the cup, secured promotion hugely against the odds, and won the club’s first-ever trophy to ensure the Chairman has to buy a cabinet from Aswijani Argos. In short, we’d achieved giant-killing on all levels!

I’ve loved the first season of life in Aswijan and I hope you did too! If you have any questions about it or want more info on specific players in the squad, just let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.

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