SWPL2 – Hearts Women v St Johnstone Women

An 87th minute header from substitute Fiona Mearns helped St. Johnstone earn a point as a frantic last fifteen minutes rounded off what had been up until that point a fairly tame SWPL2 encounter at Oriam in Edinburgh.

Both sides came into the game on the back of defeats in a division that is fast shaping up to be one where points can be taken off anyone and at any time. Hearts went into the weekend top of the table despite having suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Dundee United last time out whilst the Perth side were still searching for their first victory of the season following a 2-0 defeat at home to FC Kilmarnock.

It was St. Johnstone who had the first attempts on goal as two long range efforts from midifielder Jade McDonald failed to trouble Emily Mutch in the Hearts goal but gave an early indication that chances would be a at a premium throughout the early stages of this match. St. Johnstone continued to shoot form range without much effect as the half continued whilst Hearts’ main threat came from a series of through balls that lively striker Lauren Evans couldn’t quite get on the end of although a Hearts effort on the half hour did call Saints keeper Rebecca Cameron into action. The best passage of play in the first period came from the visitors. Some intricate play around the edge of the box between Hannah Clark, Ellie-May Cowie and Nicole Carter ended with Clark diverting a shot towards goal that Mutch did well to get down to her left and keep hold of. It was a much needed piece of action to help rouse a healthy crowd in attendance at Oriam but despite the home sides earlier possession advantage it was St. Johnstone who ended the half stronger and a neat corner kick routine saw Rachel Todd turn the ball just wide of Mutch’s near post.

Perhaps aware that the pace needed quickened both sides came out the blocks at the start of the second half. Hearts’ almost immediately took the advantage as a through ball from midfielder Jenny Smith was latched onto by Aisha Maughan however the attacker’s effort was well smothered by Cameron. Hearts continued to be in the ascendency and had their best chance of the game when Ashley Carse played in Evans who after rounding the keeper was denied by Rhiannon Tweedie’s block on the St. Johnstone line.

It looked as if the game was heading for a stalemate but Evans was not to be denied and on the 82nd minute she put the home side ahead. A lobbed ball through from midfielder Rachel Walkingshaw put the striker into the danger area but she still had plenty to do outmuscling and then skipping past both a Saints defender and the goalkeeper before tucking the ball in at the near post with the defence scrambling. It seemed a just reward for Hearts’ more adventurous second half display but just five minutes later Mearns rose highest to get on the end of a right wing corner to scramble home a equaliser and with time ticking down it looked like it might be the visitors who would sneak an unlikely victory. It wasn’t to be though and a point was enough to keep the Jambos top of the SWPL2 pile come the end of the day.

Hearts Goalkeeper Emily Mutch gave her thoughts on the game and her aims for the rest of the season: “I think in the first half we didn’t play well enough but in the second we dominated and we just needed to take our chances. I think we can build on it even though it’s disappointing to only come away with a draw but we can use that to motivate us in our next game.”

“For Hearts we want to finish top of the league and get promoted. Personally I’m working hard as I’d love to be involved with the squad for the upcoming Women’s U19 European Championships that are being held in Scotland.”

Hearts: Mutch, Delworth, Hunter, Walkingshaw, Kids, Carse, Smith, Pagliarulo, Kaney, Evans, Maughan

St Johnstone: Cameron, Milligan, Tweedie, Clark, McDonald, Carter, Shepherd, Todd, Foote, McGowan Cowie

SWPL1 Results

Celtic 0-0 Motherwell

Forfar Farmington 0-7 Glasgow City

Hibernian 4-0 Rangers

Stirling University 0-3 Spartans

SWPL2 Results

FC Kilmarnock 2-0 Glasgow Girls

Hamilton Academical 12-0 Hutchison Vale

Hearts 1-1 St. Johnstone

Partick Thistle 2-1 Dundee United

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The Descendants of Djemba Djemba

With the news that former Manchester United and Cameroon midfielder Eric Djemba Djemba has signed for SPFL Premiership side St. Mirren until the end of the season now seems as good a time as any to give a nod to some of Scottish football’s most fondly remembered African imports.

quitongo

1. Jose Quitongo

Former clubs: Hamilton Accies, St. Mirren, Kilmarnock, Hearts, Alloa Athletic, Albion Rovers, Partick Thistle, Dumbarton, Livingston, Stenhousemuir, Glenafton Athletic, Lesmahagow, Pollok and Muirkirk.

Any list about African football in Scotland would not be complete without the Angolan Pele/Maradonna/Platini/Laudrup/Charnley. A player with a trickery that seemed to often confuse him as much as it did his opponents who after moving to Scotland decided he loved it so much that he thought he would try to play for as many clubs as possible while his legs allowed him to do so. After starting his career at Benfica he found his way to South Lanarkshire and Hamilton Accies, a club that when all else failed would welcome back Jose with open arms time and time again.

Quitongo was a player who could play hopscotch with the line between terrible and brilliant all in a matter of steps but through it all continue to do so with a smile on his face, even when  blowing out his backside in almost every game he played. He also had spells in Sweden, Poland, Ireland, UAE and Italy but Scotland was where he would always call his footballing home, returning in 2006 with the hope of making it into the Angolan national team for the 2006 World Cup, unfortunately for us all that was one dream that didn’t come true. Towards the end of his career in professional football he was a one man game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ appearing at clubs across the central belt for trials and the odd substitute appearance.

Where is he now?: He’s still in Scotland and sports one of those wonderful accents that only a foreigner living in Scotland can obtain. After a playing spell in Junior football with Glenafton Athletic, Lesmahagow and Pollok amongst others he was this season appointed player-manager of Ayrshire District League side Muirkirk. Jose clearly loves Scotland and I think it’s fair to say we love him a little bit too.

balde

2. Bobo Balde

Former club: Celtic

Bobo Balde was a behemoth, strong in the air, quick on his feet and like all entertaining central defenders prone to moments of blind rage and calamity. A player who is as well know for his dominant displays in over 200 appearances for Celtic as he was for sitting on his bahookie and getting paid a handsome sum to do so. Not since Rangers Basile Boli had Scottish football seen a man who possessed the Guinean’s incredible combination of mass and speed, a skillset that led to Celtic fans chanting the phrase ‘Bobo’s gonna get ye!’ at opponents in celebration of his intimidating presence.

He was part of the successful Martin O’Neill side that reached the UEFA Cup Final only to be beaten by Porto by another man called Jose. Mourinho on this occasion. In Scotland he is without doubt Africa’s most decorated export, winning 5 league titles, 3 Scottish Cups and 2 League Cups whilst playing over 50 times for the Guinean national team. After falling out of favour with new manager Gordon Strachan moves to England failed to materialise and his departure was met with little fanfare or surprise when his contract expired in 2009.

Where is he now?: After leaving Celtic he had spells with Valenciennes and Arles Avignon at the foot of Ligue. 1 in France before retiring from the game.

toure mamam

3. Cherif Toure Mamam

Former club: Livingston

Back in the golden days before Livingston were known for their frequent flirtations with administration they were one of Scottish footballs nouveau riche, well as nouveau riche as you can be in Scotland. A rebranded Meadowbank Thistle moved to that bit of the country between Glasgow and Edinburgh in the hope of attracting new support in the heart of silicon glen. Using their new wealth to move their way up the divisions names such as Oscar Rubio, Guillermo Amor, Rolando Zarate and eh…David Bingham were often seen at the stadium formerly known as Almondvale but none came with as much expectation upon them as the Togolese international.

After trials at Rangers and Fulham, a team who themeselves were going through their own financially backed revolution, the then 20 year old midfielder came with a hype that he never quite lived up to. Sporting the number ’91’ his lucky number and an homage to his basketball playing roots, the ‘Sheriff’ as he was called, until the SFA decide they didn’t like that, had a pedigree to match any young foreigner coming to Scottish football at the time with spells at Eintracht Frankfurt and Marseille under his belt and had a sheer athleticism that had not been seen in Scotland before. Brought in as a player with the potential to be sold on for millions a spate of injuries meant that his potential was never fulfilled and he was released in 2004 as the financial problems we all expected started to rear its head.

Where is he now?: Well he nearly ended up back in Scotland in 2007 but a trial with Hearts was unsuccessful. After being part of the Togo squad at the 2006 World Cup he took the root of many African players and had a spell in the Middle East. Most recently he had a spell with Ghanaian Premier League side Asante Kotoko where even at 33 he was still being billed as the next big thing.

zerouali

4. Hicham Zerouali

Former Club: Aberdeen

The man with the ‘Zero’ on his back is perhaps still to this day one of the most gifted players to grace Scottish football and one of the few successes of the Ebbe Skovdahl era. A menace anywhere in the final third when the mood took him and capable of scoring some quite incredible goals resulting in him becoming an instant hit at Pittodrie. A Moroccan internationalist during his time at Aberdeen an injury towards the end of the 99-2000 robbed him of an appearance at the Sydney Olympics but that didn’t tarnish the memories of Dons fans with a hat trick against Dundee perhaps being the pick of many a highlight.

When looking back at the impact he made it’s not too far of a stretch to say that he blazed the trail for North African talent to find its way to Scottish shores. In the years since his departure players such as Merouane Zemmama and Abdessalam Benjelloun came in often billed as the new ‘Zerouali’ without ever living up to the inevitable hype such a comparison brought. While players such as Majid Bougherra and Ismael Bouzid have left their mark at the other end of the pitch.

Where is he now?: Unfortunately ‘Zero’ is no longer with us. After his contract expired he returned to his native Morroco via the united Arab Emirates where he was killed in a car accident two days after scoring a double for FAR Rabat. His death prompted tributes and a memorial was held in Aberdeen with thousands in attendance. The ‘Morrocan Magician’ to this day is still one of the most gifted players to play in Scotland since the turn of the millennium.

sylla

5. Momo Sylla

Former clubs: St. Johnstone, Celtic and Kilmarnock

If you were to ask the fans of the 3 aforementioned clubs to give a review on the impact Momo Sylla had on their respective clubs you will probably hear three very different stories. At St. Johnstone he arrived as a speedster capable of playing anywhere on the left hand side of the pitch. A bag of tricks with his feet sometimes moving faster than his brain and capable of producing a tackle that sent shudders down the spine of opposing players.

A key part of the Perth side’s success of the early noughties it wasn’t long before the Old Firm came calling with a £650,000 move to Celtic a just reward for a player who seemed to be consistently improving. However, like many players making the move to Glasgow things were not all that they were cracked up to be and as many predicted he struggled to find his place, never being anything other than back up to a team going through one of its most successful periods under Martin O’Neill and he was released when his contract expired. He then was part of Craig Levein’s ill-fated Leicester City revolution, before returning to Scotland for a short and unspectacular spell with Kilmarnock. Although born in the Ivory Coast he played internationally for Guinea although with only 2 appearances he, much like his career post McDiarmid Park, was nothing more than a bit part player there.

Where is he now?: A bit of digging shows that he had a spell in Moldova before seemingly disappearing off the face of the planet only re-appearing once prior to the 2012 Champions League Final to advise that he once told Didier Drogba he wasn’t good enough to play for Celtic. You can’t get them right every time, eh Momo.

Honourable Mentions:

Pa Kujabi – The Gambian Roberto Carlos, was apparently gifted with a wand of a left foot and a deadly free kick, those that attended his performances at Easter Road would beg to differ.

David Obua – Scottish football’s only ever Ugandan, a player who had more positions than the extended version of the Kama Sutra.

Madjid Bougherra – The Algerian Amo. For comment see Bobo Balde without the 3 years of sulking.

Sol Bamba – Now a mainstay of the Ivory Coast national team, during his time in Scottish football he tackled pretty much everyone, including his teammates.

Quinton Jacobs – A Namibian international who once turned down Ajax to play for Partick Thistle in the Scottish Second Division. Somebody must have done a really good job selling the concept of the Maryhill Magyars.

Will Eric Djemba Djemba be looked back on as favourably as some of these greats, only time will tell.