Gambling Panel Away Days
Wow. That was fun. Possibly bad timing from us. Launch memberzone then go on a week long football tour around Europe. Trust me this had been planned for a couple of years.
So day 1, San Siro – AC Milan 0 vs 2 Juventus. Is there a bigger game that we could have started with…? The San Siro is amazing, atmosphere incredible, Gonzalo Higuan is a player. Why didn’t Arsenal sign him…?
The Italians love Halloween and when a two tiered pumpkin banner was unveiled before kick off surrounded by tombstones with years of famous AC wins we knew we were on for something good. Whilst it wasn’t to be one of those nights for AC, with Premier League flops Fabio Borini and Nikola Kalinic key players in their team, Juve reminded everyone that they are still a force despite a disappointing start to the season. Higuan was impressive and scored two fantastic goals, whilst at the other end Chiellini was an absolute beast and put paid to our over 2.5 goals bet by comfortably shutting out Kalinic and Borini. What a start to the week, time for a night out in Milan.
Day 2 – Camp Nou (Basketball), Barcelona – Barcelona Lassa 94 vs 97 UCAM Murcia. After about 3 hours sleep the alarms were going off. Time to get up and rush to the airport. Next stop Barcelona. We arrived a bit dubious about the day ahead. Firstly the Catalonian government had just declared independence, what would the atmosphere be like. Secondly, we didn’t have much time till tip-off. No not kick off. Tip-off. The Gambling Panel were trying out a basketball match. I don’t know how many of you have been to a basketball match, but after the excitement of the first 5 minutes has died down it gets boring quickly. So we did what I imagine the majority of you would do, no not leave, no not turn to booze (the beer was non alcoholic otherwise we would have), but find something to bet on. The odds on both teams to score was terrible and we couldn’t find a market for over 0.5 second half baskets so we backed the away win. This livened the game up a bit and between that and seeing how much it would take to have a basketball thrown in our face from 10 yards (about €500 was the answer) we were into the 4th quarter. This is when the match really became exciting. Murcia had been leading comfortably throughout but Barcelona were making a comeback and came to within one with seconds remaining. The crowd were going wild but it wasn’t to be as Murcia scored another basket to see the game out. Cue mild celebrations from The Gambling Panel section who’d won the bet.
Day 3 – Cornellà-El Prat, Barcelona – Espanyol 1 vs 0 Real Betis. After a second big night out, 5am I think we turned in, we were relived not to have a flight to catch and looking forward to getting back to the football. Tonight we were off to Espanyol and looking forward to seeing what they and Real Betis had to offer. After checking Betis’ recent form we were expecting goals and even tipped a punchy score draw. Boy were we wrong. The first half was almost as boring as the basketball and so boring that the algorithm wasn’t even interested in tipping it. There was more entertainment from the overweight Spanish man in the row in front shouting at everyone who walked past and smashing through a bag of sunflower seeds like it was his last meal. Anyone that’s been to a Spanish football match and sat next to someone eating them will know about these seeds. A constant crack crack crack sound followed by discarded shells everywhere. Anyway back to the football, the stadium was quite impressive and when we did eventually get a goal, the cross, touch, and finish were all decent enough and that was it. Not much else to write home about. Time for a change of venue.
Day 4 – Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid – Atletico 1 vs 1 Qarabag. There were some sore heads this morning. We went back to our hostel after the Espanyol game and did what any self respecting European travellers would do. Buy a shit load of wine and play touch cup. Anyone’s that’s played touch cup before knows that it doesn’t mix well with wine and we certainly felt that whilst heading to the train station to catch the train to Madrid. So Madrid, we were returning to the scene of many crimes from a recent Gambling Panel stag do and visited many of the same haunts, but onto the football. The new Atletico stadium is on the outskirts of the city but as the cab started getting close you could get a real sense for the size of the stadium. From the outside it was impressive, the inside even more so, but you got the feeling that the fans were still adapting. We didn’t anticipate a huge atmosphere with minnows Qarabag in town and you got the feeling that this crossed over to the players on the pitch. The stadium was even stunned into silence 5 minutes before half time when Qarabag grabbed a shock lead and the fans streamed to the nearest sunflower seed seller. The noise levels rose shortly after half time following a great strike from Thomas Partey and a shock Qarabag red. Constant Atleti pressure had the nerves jangling and the seed shells flying, but it wasn’t to be. A great stadium but I think it’s one to go back to for a more high profile game once the fans have settled in and the atmosphere of Vincente Calderon starts to come back.
Day 5 – Estadio do Dragao, Porto – Porto 3 vs 1 RB Leipzig. Another day and another new country. Onto Portugal we go. We had a feeling that this game would give us goals and it did not disappoint. Again the stadium was impressive both inside and out and this time the atmosphere was there to match. The cab driver from the airport had told us the Germans had arrived early that day and were getting in the mood and it helped. Our seats were near the away support and both sets of fans were trying to out sing each other. The Porto fans were buoyed by an early goal with Leipzig responding just after half time. Result for us as the game was wide open and we’d had a group bet on Porto win BTTS. Porto regained the lead on the hour mark and then missed a hatful of chances. Leipzig continued to threaten and the nerves were setting it until Porto grabbed a 93rd minute 3rd to seal the game and the bet. Cue ecstatic celebrations from The Panel. Back into town to spend our winnings.
Day 6 – Gelredome, Arnhem – Vitesse 0 vs 2 Zulte Waregem. What’s the first thing you do when you fly into Amsterdam? That’s right, hop on an hour long train out to Arnhem for a Europa League match. Even the cab driver taking us from the train station to the ground couldn’t understand why we were there. Bunch of losers. Arnhem was cold, only a couple of days ago we were wearing shorts in Barcelona. Much to our surprise then when we got into the stadium and it had a closed roof. Just what we needed to watch the Chelsea loan team take on the 7th placed team from Belgium. I’m being harsh, the game was pretty good. Zulte took a 3rd minute lead and their fans set off a flair that left smoke resonating around the closed roofed stadium for much of the first half. After 20 minutes there had been 3 harsh yellow cards, so it was no surprise when a Zulte player was sent off for a second booking after 22 mins. Vitesse had their chances and two disallowed goals, but Alex Buttner’s (yes the one who Luke Shaw replaced on the Man U bench) red for two bookings shortly after half time gave Zulte a bit more freedom and it wasn’t long before they doubled their lead after 70 minutes. And that was that for us, we had to leave to make the last direct train back to Amsterdam making our way past the Dutch version of the ICF clearly waiting for the Zulte fans to leave.
Day 7 – Sportpark De Toekomst, Amsterdam – Jong Ajax 0 vs 5 De Graafschap. Now this was as bad as it got. Friday night in Amsterdam and we’re getting an Uber to the outskirts of the city to watch an Ajax reserve match. What were we thinking…? To be fair to us, The Panel are big fans of the Eerste Divisie as it’s a great league to bet on so we had to get to a game whilst we were out there. Unfortunately there was no luxury of a closed roofed stadium here and now it really was cold. We huddled behind one of the goals in true non league football style and were surprised by the high tempo that the game was played at. You could really see why there are so many goals in this league. De Graafschap took a shock lead into half time and we retreated to the club house to get a beer. We enjoyed it so much we spent the majority of the second half in there peering out the window to catch a glimpse of the football. The away side scored four more in the second half to record what was probably the shock score line of the trip, the 12 away fans in the far corner went wild. Time to get back into town.
Day 8 – Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund. Dortmund 1 vs 3 Bayern Munich. If we started the week with possibly Italy’s biggest game we definitely ended it with Germany’s. Jaded after what was essentially a week long stag do it was going to be impossible not to get caught up in the atmosphere of this game. Walking to the ground you got the closest feeling of the whole trip to an English football crowd. Everyone was drinking beer and the songs were starting early. The stadium was enormous and once we got inside and got a glimpse of the pitch you could see why so many people travel to this ground. The famous yellow wall starts forming two hours before kick off and it’s impressive to watch. The atmosphere ramps up 15 minutes before kick off when You’ll Never Walk Alone blasts out and the yellow wall is bouncing. Onto the game and 15 minutes in Robben gave Bayern the lead with a trademark cut in from the right and bent the ball in left footed. When will teams learn a way to stop this…? Dortmund had their chances to equalise but it looked like it would take something impressive to beat stand in keeper Sven Ulreich. Further Munich goals from Lewandowski and Alaba wrapped the game up before Mark Bartra came up with something special to finally beat Ulreich. It was a shame that Dortmund hadn’t scored earlier for us to get a real sense of what the home fans had to offer, but the Munich fans certainly made up for it. They sung throughout and when they set off several flairs mid way through the second half there was so much smoke that we couldn’t see the pitch for five minutes. This was definitely a must go to game and if you ever get the chance to go it will be worth it.