Welcome back to the Aswijan Assignment, a Football Manager 2020 save in the fictional country of Aswijan – using a database created by @Chilled_Moose.
Zagora Athletik had made an unexpectedly strong start to their first season in Aswijan’s second tier, Liga Principale. Ten games in and we were way up in third in the league!
Two more job interview offers came up with teams at the bottom of Liga Principale, which I rejected because it wasn’t worth it. Also, I’d just realised that our stadium had changed, without being told about it! The good news was that our new home, the Cosmos Arena in Qatnis, tripled our capacity to more than 10,000.
We began with a 0-0 draw at home to Qatnis (who aren’t considered a local rival even though we now play in the same city!) in which we somehow managed to only have one shot! Then welcomed Talat, who were relegated from Liga Regale last season and have a beautiful kit (see below). Tiberius Olivero gave us a lead but they equalised just before half-time and the second half drifted to a 1-1 draw.
That took us to 7 games unbeaten, but that ended with a 1-0 defeat to last year’s Liga Dukh champions Kasra. But we bounced back with a Tackin Bourdon goal beating SCKK away then got a great 3-0 home win over Chalkin Athletik, which included a first goal for the club for right winger Toninho Tramonte.
Rune Azevedo won Tendor di la Mes (goalkeeper of the month) and Tackin Bourdon won Garda di la Mes (defender of the month) after our defensive efforts saw us only concede 3 goals in 8 matches in September.
Olivero bounced back to form with a brace to defeat Ain Sefras 2-0, then a draw and defeat were followed by an excellent 4-0 win away at Hadria Kuduqni. Goronda got things going, Fokionas Caito came in for Olivero and scored, and there was a brace for centre-back Bourdon.
We then faced another side in around us in the playoff places as ACAT came to town. The visitors dominated the first half but Azevedo kept them out, we came back into it after the break and it looked to be drifting to a 0-0 before young left winger Giyandip Ascolese came off the bench and grabbed his first goal for the club to win it.
To put our achievements in context, when we went up against Qatnis, who were in the relegation zone, they were still 6/4 favourites to beat us while we were 13/8. And if you’d stuck a few quid on Zagora you’d have been happy because we were excellent to beat them 3-0, with loan midfielder Mirco Bjerg racking up 8 key passes and an assist en route to a 9.0 rating.
We had a couple more players leave in January, with the big one being young goalkeeper Caelan Mukulu leaving to league rivals SSCK for £800k. He wasn’t getting a game behind Azevedo and, on my coach’s advice, I downgraded his playing time and he got his knickers in a right twist. So I decided to cash in. Backup striker Caito will also be leaving at the end of his contract.
We signed two exciting youngsters in centre-back Priamo Laxan and striker Arminio Bellafiore, who look like great prospects. We’ve also snapped up a few good players on pre-contracts, who will arrive over the summer.
Facing Liga Principale’s best
We were on a strong run of form heading into a match at league leaders Talat then welcoming 3rd-placed Al Aragha Athletic in consecutive games in early February, before playing 2nd-placed Hadria Oskat two games later.
Talat started well, moving ahead through a wondergoal from winger Kabeel Arguelles, who ran from the edge of his own box into ours and smashed home the opener. But we dragged ourselves level just before the break through left-back Acrisio Aberg’s first league goal for the club. And that’s how things stayed after a quiet second half. Bjerg was again on fire, this time with 10 key passes and an assist.
The game against Al Aghora was just as tight, with the visitors enjoying the best of the play, but Olivero nicked it for us with a lovely finish in the 57th minute. But we came unstuck and home to Hadria Oskat who edged another close game 2-1, in which Olivero scored and picked up a twisted ankle that ruled him out for 4 weeks.
But that left us in 4th place in amongst a very tight playoff race heading into the last 6 games of the Liga Principale season.
Bonkers cup match
The Copa Azore first round drew us against Hesef Kuduqni, which followed the match in which we had 1 shot. And we made up for it by going 2-0 up inside 7 minutes. However, we managed to throw the 2-goal lead away and somehow drew 4-4 in a bonkers conclusion. We equalised with a penalty from Aberg, they went and equalised immediately, then we won another penalty that Aberg converted again in the 96th minute. A goalless extra-time followed and we snuck through on penalties, in which Aberg this time missed!
We then beat Qatnis on penalties again in the next round but lost 1-0 in the 3rd round away to Hamjar.
Join us next time as we complete the final few games of our first season to see if we can make the Liga Principale promotion playoffs!
And, as always, if you’re enjoying this Aswijan save and want to find out more about it or want more info on any of the players just let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.