Chapter 700 – Wishing Good Luck
During the half-time break, everyone was enthusiastically discussing George Wood’s goal that evened the score, whether it was in the changing room, the bar, or at the car rental area. Even the most loyal of Nottingham Forest fans did not believe that the team captain could score so easily even though he had never learnt how to shoot — if the goal he scored had been a strong volley, it would not have been as shocking.
Twain stood at the entrance of the changing room, not interrupting the team’s discussion on Wood’s goal. He was glad to see everyone being this way, because he was excited by that goal as well. George Wood sat in the center like a criminal, surrounded by the team. The mischievous Ribéry even used a bottle as a microphone to mimic a reporter, asking for Wood’s thoughts on scoring the goal. This made everyone laugh. Although they were still tied at 1 : 1, it was as if no one thought they would lose this match.
Everyone returned to their seats after they had their fun, waiting for Twain to lay out the tactics for the second half. Twain did not spout nonsense; there was not much time, so he cut to the chase. While the team was still playing around, he had already drawn up the formation of both sides on his play board. He then analysed the play board for everyone.
“In the first half, the main reason why we lost the ball was because the dual defensive midfielders needed to assist in defending the side roads after the two full backs assisted the attack, hence opening up the center path. After adjusting to make the defensive line more secure, the attacking strength had instead weakened. This is not right. Man City is the away team, so even taking a point in the contest is sufficient for them. We are the home team; a draw is a failure. Hence in the second half, we have to think of breakthroughs to strengthen our offense. The full backs still should assist the attack. However, we still need to adjust a little …”
In Man City’s changing room, the team still congratulated Bendtner on his goal, despite George Wood’s surprise of a goal that turned their leading advantage into a tie. But Bendtner was not happy. George Wood stole his spotlight with that goal, and he was still one goal behind the two that he promised, so how could he celebrate? He sat on the stool feeling dull, half-heartedly listening to Mark Hughes adjust the formation for the second half.
Hughes’ tactics did not change from the first half: it was either assistive attacking the side roads while prioritising the attack on the main road or assistive attacking the main road while prioritising the side road. He repeatedly emphasized a word — patience.
“We need to be patient, because Nottingham Forest are the ones fighting on their home field. I believe Tony Twain will hope to not end the game on a draw in this contest. Under time pressure, they will be forced to attack. That will be our opportunity. Before that, all of you just need to maintain your patience and wait for them to make a mistake. Taking a step back, even a draw is acceptable as well,”
Bendtner frowned. The head coach thought a draw was acceptable, but he definitely could not take a draw. He only achieved one of the two goals he envisioned. He had already made this announcement before the match and made it known to the media. If he were to score only one goal by the end of the match, who knew how those people would make fun of him? Besides, Tony Twain did not accept a draw, so why should he? Bendtner spent the fifteen-minute halftime break mulling.
At the start of the second half, Man City used a defensive formation, in hopes that Nottingham Forest would bring the attack to them. If Nottingham Forest did not attack, they would not have gaps to take advantage of. As expected, Nottingham Forest then went with an aggressive attack. Mark Hughes saw Nottingham Forest’s full backs joining the attack, but he was not happy for long because he discovered how Twain meticulously used the arrangement to defend as well.
In the first half Nottingham Forest’s full backs advanced from both left and right sides. It looked powerful and threatening as both added an additional layer of offense. But at the same time this created space on both sides that could have been exploited, hence both defensive midfielders had to defend their respective sides, creating an empty center.
Twain switched it up in the next half. Both full backs still assisted the offense, but they were not allowed to advance at the same time. If Bale advanced to assist the offense, Rafinha must stay at the back, so Tiago would defend the center while George Wood replaced Bale’s position after he advanced. If Rafinha advanced to assist, Bale would retreat; Wood would defend the center path and Tiago would temporarily take the role of the full back.
No matter which side advanced, there would not be a lack of players on the defense line or obvious gaps. Hughes, after realising this, scolded Twain being all about defending in his mind. But what choice did he have?
This move indeed blocked all of Man City’s offensive pathways — launching a quick counter-attack was almost impossible. Now, Man City only had two options. The first was to defend till the end of the whole match and not allow Nottingham Forest to score, ending the match with a draw. The other was to get out there and face Nottingham Forest, relying on the possession game to search for an opportunity.
Mark Hughes was leaning towards the first option, afraid that Nottingham Forest’s counter attack could expose a gap. However, Bendtner did not think the same.
Bendtner wanted to score. In the offensive half, he continuously raised his hand to signal for a pass, but most of the time he just seemed like an island in the middle of the vast sea; There was nobody near him who could assist him. Nottingham Forest’s attack was aggressive, so Man City’s players had no choice but to repeatedly return to defend. Bendtner was only able to stay on the field because Hughes had expressly allowed him to do so during the break. Originally, Hughes had wanted to counter-attack Nottingham Forest.
Bendtner was a center forward, so he needed support from the midfielders or he would be of very limited use. On top of that, there was basically nothing he could do except passing once he retreated to the midfield which was too far from the goalpost.
Twain led Bendtner for four seasons, so there was no way he would not be familiar with Bendtner’s speciality and style of playing. He used high offensive pressure to suppress Man City, which was as good as cutting Bendtner off from the team. Bendtner could either continue to wave his hand to signal for the ball at the front, or he could run for the ball and plan an attack. No matter what he chose, his threat to Nottingham Forest’s goal was pitifully negligible. Twain watched from his seat as Bendtner ran back and forth for the ball but to no avail.. He crossed his legs.
George Wood did not let that goal get to his head. He was still dedicatedly carrying out Twain’s new mission for him — defend. With great difficulty, Bendtner finally received the ball, only to be tackled by Wood. Bendtner immediately fell to the ground upon losing the ball, in hopes of getting Wood another yellow card. The jeering started up again; the audience regarded Bendtner’s stunt with disdain.
Wood paid no attention to Bendtner’s stunt and dribbled the ball to initiate a counter-attack. There was an unspoken rule in soccer: if there was an injured player, the ball should be kicked out of bounds to allow the player to receive treatment. However, Wood had no intention to do so. Not only did he dribble past Elano, who compromised defense to signal for Wood to kick the ball out of the field, he also charged past Ireland who tackled too aggressively.
Humiliated and angered, Ireland shoved Wood. The referee’s whistle finally rang out, cutting through the cacophonous jeering. He gave Ireland a yellow card. Both players quickly charged at each other, looking to start a fight. The referee and some of the calmer players rushed to pry the pair apart, trying to stop a fight from breaking out.
The culprit who started the chaos, Bendtner, stood up sulkily once he saw Wood pass Ireland. He sure did not look injured at all. Both sides managed to prevent a fight from happening, but the jeering intensified every time Bendtner had the ball.
Twain shrugged at the people around him. “Self-created mess.”
“The performance in the second half was not as good as it was in the first half.” David Kerslake was starting to pick up on things.
“If he placed all his thoughts on the match instead of filling his mind with vengeance, he might have scored two goals.” Twain shook his head, shrugging. “But he’s not so scary now.”
“What does that mean?” Kerslake, an Englishman,could not understand the last Chinese word Twain used.
“It means ‘nothing worth fearing’,” Twain translated for him.
There was nothing worth mentioning about what followed after. Man City was not able to score, and was only able to shrink back to its defense. With Hughes shouting angrily, Bendtner had no choice but to return to the defensive half to participate in defense. At the 70th minute, as the Nottingham Forest fans cheered loudly, Twain substituted Nistelrooy for Žigić and switched Lennon out for Beckham. Thus started the high bombardment tactic.
Beckham came together with Rafinha at the right road, partnering with great chemistry. They did a one-two and then passed to Žigić who was using his height and strong build to create chaos in front of the goal. It would be good if they could score, but even if they did not, this could be a chance for another teammate to score.
At that moment, Man City’s goalkeeper aerial defense alarm rang incessantly. Dunn became flustered and Joe Hart’s heart was in his mouth. At the 82nd minute, his heart dropped to the ground.
“Nikola Žigić!! Beautiful header bomb! A heavy bombing machine! He made Man City’s full backs helpless!”
Žigić opened both arms and ran towards Beckham who passed him the ball and both players hugged to celebrate his first goal in the English League. Twain waved his fists about excitedly. Žigić scoring a goal was what he wanted to see the most. Bendtner might be gone, but they still had a stronger aerial overlord!
While Žigić was leaping amongst the crowd with his arms wide open, a huge shadow was cast on Joe Hart, who looked like he had seen a B52 bomber machine. Dunn was virtually holding onto Žigić with both his hands, but that did nothing to stop his run-up. With the ball and the player in place, the ball shot into the goal. Look — this was what it meant to dominate the penalty area!
“A height of 2.02 meters… Too scary…” Gray sighed. Even if Žigić did not jump, it would have made people in front of Man City’s goal dizzy. Even Dunn and Ćorluka, who were 1.88m and 1.93m tall respectively, seemed like children in front of him. Most importantly, Žigić’s jump was not weak. Had he jumped with all his might, he would have been more than just “outstanding”.
“Twain favoured center forwards with strong builds like him for a reason. Sometimes they are indeed very useful…”
While still recovering from his injury, van der Vaart launched a counter-attack after Man City’s furious attempt to even the score. In the end, he scored a goal which utterly destroyed Man City.
The match ended with Nottingham Forest winning 3:1 on its home field. Bendtner played the whole match, but he did not fulfil his promise of scoring two goals. At the end of the match, Nottingham Forest fans were happy for their team’s win, but did not forget to mock the traitor who was too ashamed to show his face.
Bendtner, who had been running nonstop for 90 minutes, stood rooted to the ground like a puppet after the whistle was blown, unable to accept the outcome. At that moment, Nistelrooy walked over. He took off his jersey and placed it in front of Bendtner. Bendtner looked blankly at his opponent.
“It doesn’t have to be like this…” Nistelrooy smiled. “I get injured frequently these days, and my health is declining.”
Bendtner lowered his head, taking off his own jersey. They shook hands after exchanging their jerseys. “Good luck to you, Niki.”
Nistelrooy threw the number 9 jersey over his shoulder and left, joining the team that was celebrating their victory. As Bendtner watched his old teammates who were wearing the red jersey and thanking their fans, an indescribable emotion rose in his heart.
Twain charged into the group, his left hand holding on George Wood who scored the first goal while his right was grabbing onto Žigić who scored the second. Because the two players stood at different heights, Twain looked funny, but this did not affect the smile on his face.
“Do you like winning? Do you like champions? Then come to Nottingham Forest!”
“Then you use your set to get the championships!”
Bendtner had chosen his path. It might be a path might be full of thorns, but he had to keep walking. Regretting would not help, so he would not regret. Wearing Nistelrooy’s jersey, Bendtner lowered his head and slowly walked out of the stadium. This would be his last time wearing a red Nottingham Forest jersey in front of everyone.
At the interview after the contest, Twain was asked for his views on Bendtner’s problem. He refused to express any opinions on Bendtner’s performance in the match and simply said, “Personally, I wish him good luck.” Then, he changed the subject, “I am more willing discussing with you all my two players who scored in this contest. George Wood scored a noble goal and Žigić played his best 20 minutes since he joined Nottingham Forest. I believe both of them would have bright futures.”
Reporters were not content seeing how Twain was not willing to answer the question regarding Bendtner. Only Pierce Brosnan could understand Twain’s intentions — the past was already the past. What point was there in discussing it? No matter how outstanding the people who left were, they could not bring Twain another victory or championship. As such, it was best to focus on the present instead. Compared to those who left because of various reasons, prioritising and treasuring people who were with him should be what he most optimally want to do currently.
Twain was still praising the performance of his team on stage. As for his opponents, whether it was Mark Hughes, the Man City team or Bendtner, he did not have any opinions.
What has passed is past.