Five out of five

Season 2019 in my never-ending Master League had already got off to a flier with massive wins that left me top of the table with a hefty goal difference. My aims for this season are threefold: win a Treble of League, Cup, and European Cup; remain unbeaten all season in the League; and concede less than 20 goals all season in the League. If I continue as I started, I should sweep the board in all three categories.

Ah, but Pro Evolution Soccer is a canny mistress. At all times she knows exactly what you want and how to stop you getting it. Anybody who has played PES, and Master League in particular, for any great length of time knows precisely what I’m talking about. The suddenly impregnable AI defence. The suddenly useless world class players on your team. The superhuman AI goalkeeper. The magnetic posts and crossbar on the AI goal. Yes, yes, yes. All of this is so well-known that it’s hardly worth going on about.

Often the best matches on PES are when the game is blatantly out to stop you, but you win through regardless. My next league game was against Recreativo de Huelva, a surprise package over the past few seasons who were even now lurking just below me in the table on goal difference. Perhaps this was an early six-pointer against a new power in the league. (My old adversaries, Valencia, were down in mid-table. I’m not fooled by that.)

The Recreativo match was tough, but somehow not as tough as it could have been. I won 3-1. It was one of those matches where you struggle to get the first goal, but after it comes it’s as if the CPU just wilts, and you dominate the rest of the game. As ever, the CPU scored itself a consolation goal late on. If I’m going to fulfil my aim of conceding less than 20 goals this season, I’ll have to find a way to stop the CPU grabbing these ‘auto-goals’ as I call them.

After Recreativo I met Basel, and the CPU was still in its funny mood. Again it was a struggle to get the upper hand. It was 0-0 for a long time and Basel were a constant threat. By the 75th minute I had more or less settled for a draw in my mind when I brought on Giggs as a substitute (he’d not been fit enough to start). I had the ball with Bradley in the centre circle and played a raking pass out to the left wing towards Giggs. I decided to hit the ball first-time with him. The moment I hit it, I knew it was on its way into the net and that I would then hold on to win the match 1-0. PES2008 has a lovely side-footed shooting animation that never fails to delight—especially when the shot results in a great flighted goal, as it did on this occasion.

My next game was an almost routine 5-0 hammering of Sevilla. I’ve played five games and won five games. I’ve scored 23 goals and conceded just 3 goals. I’ve had superb starts like this before and gone on to have disappointing seasons, so I’m not fooled. I’m being careful and I’ll try to remain careful.

Below me, Deportivo la Coruna—who have done nothing in this Master League so far—are also on a 100% run. The current third-placed team, my old adversaries Valencia, will be my next opponents.


  1. I am needing help stepping up to the next level in the PSP version. I can’t win games comfortably. Had a game against Ireland, totally dominated the game. At 2-0 up I was battering their goal, but the keeper was suddenly perfect. Then of course they got the enevitable goal back with their one and only shot on target. I held out for a win, but was still angry with the result.

    When defending in the PS2, holding R2 helps you face the opposition player running, and it’s easier to block of space. Whats the equivalent on the PSP? I am being turned far too easily, and of course everyone seems to be a world class clinical striker in this.
    Also why is cancel so hard to do mid game? I find it impossible to run onto through balls that are not inch perfect. I am struggling again in International league season 2.

    This is a good run for you! Hopefully you were successful against Valencia. Do they still have David Villa? Or have they replaced him? He must be 35 or something. I feel myself rooting for Deportivo in your league. I at least hope they can somehow clinch 2nd in your league, and it’s not just a flash in the pan.

  2. Not Given – I haven’t got the PSP PES2008 manual to hand right now (will check later) but I don’t think there’s an R2 shield equivalent, unfortunately. I might have missed it in the manual so I may be wrong.

    Super-cancel is definitely in, though, and works just as well (when the game wants to let it). It’s Triangle+Circle as I’m sure you know. I’ve used it to stop my players auto-running after through-balls.

    Stick with the PSP version. Maybe starting a new ML from scratch and confining it just to the PSP might help? Although I bet if you start with the Defaults you’ll soon be throwing the PSP out of the nearest window. Go for a custom squad!

    I’ll soon be testing out that 4-1-4-1 formation. I’ll post about it when it happens.

  3. I HAVE to stick with the PSP version. I won’t be at home a lot over the next couple of years and won’t have my normal hundrerds of hours to spend on the home consoles! So the PSP is now my best friend, that I am going to have to learn to live with. Faults and all.

    I will give it ago. Although there is always something wrong with starting an ML without the default rabble. I don’t know just a feeling.. My last 3 results in the International League were 4-0, 2-1, 3-1, things may be looking up!

    Good luck with the formation. It has resulted in my midfielders scoring most of the goals. Baraja had 9, Vicente and Joaquin had 5 each or so. I change my striker nearly every game, between Raul, Villa, Torres and Morientes, so they don’t get an awful lot of time to score.

  4. I’ve tried implementing a 4-1-4-1 formation, but I didn’t quite like it. The midfield players didn’t really seem willing to advance to the box for crosses, and even in other situations. I tried setting attacking arrows, but it didn’t make much of difference. I’m sticking with my 4-1-1-4 in my alternate ML.

  5. Not Given – it seems Konami will be publishing PES2009 on the PSP as well, probably not until 2009 itself, so there’s plenty of life in the handheld yet.

    If you start with the Default crew on PSP, just bear in mind that they’re as bad (or even slightly worse) than their big console brothers.

    And aren’t the loading times on the PSP bleedin’ annoying?! I leave mine on standby a lot of the time so it’s not too bad, but whenever I have to ‘start cold’ from the XMB, it can take up to 2-3 minutes to start playing a match. There’s even a palpable loading time just when looking at the league tables!

    Adriano – I meant to say the other day that I’ve always fancied trying out a 3-3-4 formation in PES. It seems to be a natural progression from 4-3-3. I recall Brazil in 2004 (I think) going on a European exhibition tour with a lot of publicity about playing a 3-3-4 formation. As I recall it didn’t really work well for them (I could be wrong) but in PES it’ll be worth a shot.

  6. Well I have just had the most stinking match in PES PSP history. This has to be the most scripted mess ever. The 2nd round cup match with Russia. I score first, batter their goal they get the auto equalizer. I socre again, batter their goal they get the auto equalizer. Then I scored in the 80th minute to look like winning. Arshavin hits in free kick from about 40 yards out in stoppage time. Then in extra time I play a back pass, Marchena inexplicably hits it like a shot into the top corner for an own goal??? Then I make another come back to make it 4-4. Then it goes to penalties which I obviously lose. Obviously.


  7. Playing with 3 CBs is impossible in PES 2008. The CPU is obsessed with wing-play.

  8. Not Given – that’s PES2008, and the PSP version, for you. High-scoring games with unlikely comebacks on both sides. It’s been going this way for a couple of years now. PES2009 had better see a sea-change in the series.

    Adriano – I don’t think it’s impossible. I go down to 10 men (or less) quite a lot, and often play with 3 CBs. I rarely have trouble defending, but admittedly I’m usually behind or level and the CPU isn’t running its various scripts to force the issue.

    I might configure an alt formation and assign it to a strategy button alongside my regular 4-3-3, see how it goes.

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