Month: April 2012

One out of three ain’t bad

This season I was going for my first Treble in PES2012’s Master League. Having already won the Super Cup and the World Club Cup, it would have made for an unprecedented Quintuple.

But I missed out on the League title, as expected. Not even a Master League AI in its most generous mood was going to let me overhaul two teams, with a 5-point gap, with just two games to go.

Man Utd won their very next game, and the title was over for me. Amusingly, both Manchester clubs lost their final games, allowing me the pleasure of contemplating a final table where I’d missed out on the title by 2 points.

The final table:

In Master League as in life, the table doesn’t lie. I’ve got no complaints really. I sensed from the start of the season that it was a tough one.

Scoring 90 goals is my highest season total ever. I’ll be aiming for the 100 mark next season. Assuming I still have the team that’s capable of getting so many, of course (more on that later).

Ronaldo (the proper Brazilian Ronaldo, natch) scored an impressive 32 of my 90 goals, and finished top scorer—my first Golden Boot of PES2012’s Master League. He’s well worth it, is Ronaldo. But can I keep him?

The Best XI for the League was a pretty sight—lots of bold blue:

Brolin had a great season, scoring twice in the FA Cup Final. Which I won surprisingly easily, beating Aston Villa 3-0.

That completes my haul of trophies in PES2012. I’ve now won ’em all, at various times. If I can only win all 3 main ones in one season.

The FA Cup Best XI was even more cheering than the league version—love the bold blue on show here:

After the FA Cup Final I took a look at the upcoming schedule and was confronted with a truly ridiculous run-in. Konami have got to have a serious word with whoever put together this aspect of Master League:

An International round the day before my final league match, and a Training Match the day after the Champions League final? Strewth.

And so it came to the Champions League Final. I felt really intimidated by the opponents, to be truthful. Manchester United did the double over me in the league. They’re a phenomenal team in my ML world, with a striker—Emmanuel Thomas—who seems divinely entitled to score against me every time we play.

I’d been clever, I thought. I set my team up to defend and try to nick a goal or two at the other end. My usual philosophy of attack, attack, attack hasn’t worked on Man Utd at any time in the season or two since I adopted it.

So I played with two DMFs—Neeskens and Farinos—and did very well for the first half. 0-0 at half-time, and I was confident.

After the break, PES2012 must have decided it’d had enough of toying with me. Emmanuel Thomas scored two devastating counter-attack goals, against the run of play. I was 2-0 down with ten minutes left. I pulled one back with Ronnie. After that, I could hardly get the ball and when I did the Man U players swarmed me out of it.

It’s a horrible feeling, to have worked so hard and slogged your way through all the group matches and knockout ties, only to fall at the last hurdle. But you’ve got to take the setbacks. No reloading, ever. Otherwise, the whole enterprise is meaningless.

So the only actual thing I played for and won all season was the FA Cup.

It was still a good season, getting to he CL Final and finishing 3rd in the League, and the game reflected that.

I was very happy to see my Club Ranking shoot up from 13th to 2nd.

And so to Season 12. Where there are going to be some changes to my team and the general outlook.

Some of my stars will have to be sold. The finances demand it and, really, I demand it. It’s time for some of my promising Youths to take centre-stage.

Some of the ageing classics can be sold/released. My young players have been waiting for a long time. Perrotta. Cannavaro. Carraciolo. Manfredini. Natali. All will play a lot more more regularly. Carraciolo, a 21-year-old beanpole of a striker, has quietly sneaked up to 80 OVR without playing at all.

So there’s no end in sight to PES2012. Not even close. Back in October, I thought I’d get to FIFA12 by April/May time. I’m now thinking June/July. If ever.

League bleeder

It looks like I’ve blown the League title this season. I was two points behind Manchester United with three matches remaining. We met in a crunch encounter…

That I lost 2-1 with the final kick of the game. It had been 1-1 for a long time in what was a good competitive match, and I was pushing hard for the winner.  I should probably have settled for the draw and hoped for later results to go my way.

I lost the ball from a throw-in (how often that happens!), and Man Utd went off on one of those PES2012-style, seemingly unstoppable counter-attacks where they squirm through on your goal no matter what. Where you win the ball many times over, but the CPU keeps it anyway, because it can.

Emmanuel Thomas put the ball in the net for them. The final whistle went as soon as I kicked off. Thomas has been the bane of my ML life for a number of seasons now. Can’t wait until he retires.

Here’s the table with just 2 matches still to play:

5 points behind, and with two top teams ahead of me. It’s not looking good at all. I really blew it. I should have sat on the 1-1 at Man Utd. Damn.

I will just have to take 6 points from my final matches and hope for the best.

I’ve taken to playing a funky new variant on my standard formation that seems to work well against these top sides. I conceived it mainly so I could play Neeskens and Farinos in the same XI. I did try playing Farinos as a right-sided CMF. I know, groan. It didn’t really work out, unsurprisingly.

So I came up with this one instead. It is the kind of formation that only a computer game football team could really get away with, but so what.

Over in the Champions League semi-final, first leg, I lost 2-3 against Manchester City at home. I was actually relieved—I was 1-3 down until the last few minutes. I pushed hard for my second goal, feeling that I needed to narrow the gap for any chance in the second leg. I got it—Ronaldo the scorer—and off we went to Maine Road. (I am not knowing this ‘Etihad’ of which they speak.)

Attitude is everything, they say in cheesy self-help books, and it’s just the same for PES2012. I started the match positive and focused, and I got my reward. A quick early goal. Man City were now 0-1 down on the night, but it was only 3-3 on aggregate, and they were leading on away goals.

Alas, PES’s AI has never understood the whole concept of aggregate, two-legged scorelines.

Man City reacted precisely as if they were behind. PES2012’s momentum script kicked in. Overdrive mode was upon me.

It was pretty torrid, but I survived. Extreme defending is an art in PES2012. I’m not scared to stick the boot in and pick up yellow cards. Soon I had three of my four defenders on yellows. Neeskens was immense, popping up everywhere, breaking up play. It was almost hand-to-hand fighting at times.

I got the second goal I needed on 80 minutes. The last ten minutes were unexpectedly easy.

And so I’m through to my second Champions League final in a row, where I will face… Manchester United.

And I’ve got the FA Cup Final against Villa coming up next. This is the only trophy in the game I haven’t won yet.

Could Man Utd slip up in the league, letting me close a 5-point gap? Very unlikely, but possible. Will I win the FA Cup for the first time? It’ll be hard against one of the toughest teams in my ML world. Could that dream Treble be mine? Or will I win nothing at all?

I’ll tell all on Friday.

Squeaky bum time

It’s incredibly tight at the top of the table after 32 matches of season 11.

Scoring relatively fewer goals this season may cost me.

However, I play Manchester United two matches from the end of the season. It looks like being our very own crunch game, a spooky echo of the current real-life scenario developing in the English Premier League. Art imitating life. I feel like a gooseberry between the two Manchesters in my ML world.

My goal difference is poor this year despite a recent 6-0 thumping at home of West Ham, and a 7-2 spanking of Blackburn away. These two results took place several games apart. I’m still finding PES2012 on Professional tough otherwise. Thoughts of Top Player cannot be far away, though.

Life in my ML world with Classics unlocked and available to all teams means that it’s not just me peppering my squad with superstars.

Take a look at the Napoli team that turned up to play in the round of 16 in the Champions League.

Rivelino, Robinho, and Mario Kempes up front.

Dino Zoff, Paul Gascoigne and Didier Drogba on the bench.

And those are just the ones that stick out. What about Aldair, Park Ji Sung, Gargano, Rincon, Pandev…

They didn’t play up to their strengths, I’m glad to say. I beat them quite easily at home, 2-0.

The second leg was different. I dominated early play but just couldn’t score, and Napoli pulled one back. 1-2 on aggregate, and I had to hold on for grim life.

In the last seconds of the last minute of injury time, they forced a corner. I thought I knew what was about to happen, but even I have never seen a PES game be so brazen about it.

Before the corner came over I naturally wanted to place my biggest CB in his usual prime position—edge of the 6-yard box, middle of the goal. But the game auto-selected Cannavaro, my right-back for the day. I frantically tapped L1, seeking either of my two giant CBs, but the game would only cycle between Cannavaro and Farinos and Forlan. All 5-foot nothing. Ruggeri and Nadal were standing close by, but the game was keeping them from me. If anybody has another explanation, I’d love to hear it.

The corner came over. Cannavaro didn’t even jump despite me hammering the button. A Napoli giant headed the ball in powerfully. Extra time was on.

And I was soon down to 10 men, as I took out my frustrations with a scything foul for no reason. Forlan was off.

And then I scored a pretty soft goal myself and held on until the end of extra time. I’ll play Manchester City next in the Quarters.

The Treble (really a Quintuple this season) is still very much on, because I’m also in the FA Cup Final,where I’ll play Villa.

I beat Liverpool in the semi-final, 3-1. Once again I found it fairly easy to beat Liverpool in my ML world.

I only noticed that one of the beasts of PES2012, Andy Carroll, was even playing after about 80 minutes, when CPU overdrive mode kicked in and he snatched a late consolation goal. Until that point, my defence had been so dominant that none of the Liverpool strikers were even on my radar. How times have changed.

It’s a Warzone

It might take longer than usual to get through the next few seasons. With work, and Uni work, and other games, and work on various special projects, I’m currently only managing two or three matches on PES2012 per day, on average. I usually play six or seven.

This all might continue for the next month or so. I can’t wait for the summer and for Open University, at least, to be over for the year.

I’ve stayed in the top 4 all season, but always a few points behind the leaders. It feels as if the title will be the tough one to get this season. I need to keep winning and just hope that the top two—Man Utd and Man City—slip up somewhere.

Here’s the table after 26 matches of the season:

I’m scoring fewer goals this season. One defeat and I could be out of contention.

I’ve avoided defeat recently by the skin of my teeth. I had two miracle draws against Liverpool and then against Aston Villa.

Liverpool have been easy meat in recent seasons, but confounded me by streaking into a 2-0 lead. I thought I’d blown the title race right there. But I pulled it back to 2-2 near the end, beginning with a lovely 30-yarder from Mancini. It’s the first goal in today’s mini-movie at the end of the post.

Next, the Villa—a proper superteam in my ML world, although they never win anything—repeated the trick, going 2-0 up and making me think I’d lost the lot. Again, though, I pulled it back to 2-2, this time with 15 minutes of the match remaining. I had a glorious chance to win it with Ronaldo late on, but in trying to make sure of my placement, dragged it too far wide.

Next up were the Arsenal. Yes, I was having a proper run of tough fixtures.

This game typified everything high and low in PES2012. I had a key player, my CB Nadal, sent off after 5 minutes for a last-man sliding tackle. It was a totally unjust sending-off: I got the ball.

Now I was playing with 10 men at Arsenal in a game I had to win, or at least not lose.

I suppose this mirrors the reality of real football, as we’ve seen recently, when the complexion of a massive match is drastically altered early on.

It turned out to be one of those classic PES matches. Arsenal could and should have scored, at least five times. They didn’t. My keeper played out of his skin, even getting a special mention from Beglin at half time.

The match wound on and on. I defended desperately. I was playing with one striker, Ronaldo, not the greatest at leading the line. A few chances were coming, but I wasn’t taking them. In my heart I’d accepted 0-0 as a good result.

I got a last-minute free kick and thought I’d just run the clock down. Then I spotted Barnes in a bit of space out wide and fed him the ball. What the hell, I thought, and sent over a cross.

I had two men in the box: Ronaldo, and pint-sized Farinos. I have no ideal what Farinos was doing up there from DMF. Ronaldo got something on the ball, as did an Arsenal defender. It dropped for Farinos at the back post, and I slotted the ball home.

GOAL! A precious, precious winner in the last seconds, having struggled with 10 men for 85 minutes. GOAL! A classic moment. I was cheering. And it was Farinos’ first goal, too. What an important one.

It’s matches like this one that make Master League what it is.

Today’s mini-movie features, in order:

  • Mancini’s long-range strike against Liverpool. I love how it finds the inside panel of the side netting.
  • A glimpse of Warzone 2100, which I’m playing through yet again, for the sixth or seventh time. Between this and Dwarf Fortress and everything else I’ve got going on, it’s a wonder I’m playing any PES2012 at all. WZ2100 is now an open source fan project available for PC, Mac, and Linux. It looks bloody excellent running at maximum resolution on my Mac. I’m already on mission 12, partying like it’s 1999.
  • And finally a gorgeous placed left-foot shot from Ronaldo that smacks in off the woodwork.