"You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May."
- Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time.
This was to the be the Grüne Tulpe's last match before a two week pause in official play, and a sun of summery strength had drawn out a particularly robust 14-pack of tulips. Even the long missed Markus Meyer and Finn Gerlach had been lured out of their wintering slumbers. Had the sun cruelly deceived these two fragile sprouts into a fatally premature appearance? Were they in danger of falling victim to a surprise frost (i.e., brutal slide tackle), their sudden appearance on the field to be followed by an equally sudden exit? Clearly no such questions troubled the thoughts of the assembling tulips, who used the pre-game interval to discuss like giddy teenagers their plans for the coming Easter holidays, or to speculate about what luxurious team quarters awaited them during the annual training camp in Kienbaum-Brandenburg the week thereafter. In short, dear reader, the Tulpen were in mind and spirit already long gone, checked-out.
Opponents Theater des Westens (TdW) were possessed of an equally good cheer this evening, bringing with them to the pitch an impressive group of supporters, their friends and family, as well as numerous cases of beer. Both teams were clearly spellbound by the early summer wind and seemed reluctant to get down to business. Even the normally sobering opening whistle could not shake them out of their reveries. Indeed, the Grüne Tulpe began the game with an extended sequence of extraordinarily poorly placed passes, the last of which was delivered (in the 2nd minute of play) right to the feet of a dumbfounded TdW striker standing just outside the penalty box. The resulting shot, though on target, was easily snapped up by keeper Jochen Schieborn, who, rightfully outraged, commanded his teammates to get their affairs in order. Where the shrill kick-off whistle had previously failed, this stern remonstrance from their own last man now succeeded; the Tulpen had finally awoken.
The call to order was issued from the back and proceeded logically from there. Without a doubt it is the Greens' defensive line that deserves full credit for saving this match. In the course of the next ten minutes they managed to completely extinguish any life up front. Whatever fledgling hope entertained by the TdW offense after that first early shot on goal was now quickly and mercilessly snuffed out. Any and all 50-50 balls in the center of the field were decisively mopped up by stopper Finn Pelke and sweeper Stefan Witt. Friendlier fields were not to be found on the flanks either, where André Bornstein and Markus Meyer hounded tirelessly after the forlorn and wayward strikers.
The effect on the game was immediate. The Green's midfielders suddenly found themselves with essentially no defensive responsibilities and put their newfound freedom to good use. One attack after another was launched from the midfield, with the inevitable consequence soon following. The scene of the first goal provides a characteristic example: left back André Bornstein, making one of what would be dozens of overlapping runs, is coldly ignored by midfielder Aaron Greicius, who chooses instead to send Andrea Puerstinger on a through run; Andrea, making good on Greicius' previous neglect, now plays an excellent 1-2 with Bornstein (continuing his run) and beats two defenders on her way toward the TdW goal; after besting a third defender she is taken down in box; the awarded penalty is cooly converted by Markus Kurdziel, who buries the ball low in the corner. 1-0 for Grüne Tulpe in the 22nd minute.
The second and deciding stroke fell not long after. This time a poorly cleared cross in the TdW defensive third landed at the feet of Simon Bruhn, who did not hesitate in lobbing the ball right back into the box, where André Bornstein was waiting. Perhaps disoriented after his latest coast-to-coast overlapping run, perhaps transitioning too quickly from defender to attacker, the leaping Bornstein miscalibrated slightly and headed the ball nearly straight down at his own feet. Happily, however, the ball was bounced in a lovely arc just over the keeper's outstretched gloves and just under the crossbar. 2-0 for the Tulpe after 30 minutes.
The match at this point was effectively over. The tension between the two teams suddenly went slack, and like a violin whose tuning pegs have sprung loose, the game now was played without a clear sense of purpose. Matters were not helped after the break when TdW transitioned to a long-ball style attack, executed largely by its two British strikers, visiting thespians from the Globe in London. This tactic did provide for the occasional excited cheer from the TdW supporters, when a player managed to successfully receive a ball deep in Tulpe territory; but the cheer would then quickly give way to a disappointed sigh as the defense then converged on the helpless and abandoned striker, effortlessly stripping him of the ball.
The Tulpe offense meanwhile continued to set forth well-organized attacks, but showed themselves lacking in concentration at the decisive moment. Midfielders and strikers alike frequently made their way into the penalty area, but never succeeded in sending that last simple pass for a teammate to slot away. Instead the ball was held too long and the action usually ended in a desperate tumbling shot attempt, well off the mark. The last goal serves as a good example of how not to "make it look easy".
Finn Gerlach made a devastating run straight down the center of the field, beating three defenders before finally finding time to rip a shot from around the penalty spot. The ball thundered off the goalpost and skidded over to Markus Kurdziel. The latter, in an act of daring showmanship, played a 1-2 pass off the very same post and then flung himself wildly at the ricocheted ball, somehow managing to guide it into the net. 3-0. An extraordinary double-pack for Kurdziel, and a fitting end to this match.
Summary: Returning tulips Meyer and Gerlach can both be proud of solid performances during their first 2011 appearance. The Tulpen enter this short pause with another well-earned win under their belt and a possible theme for the coming training camp: finishing school.