2001: Raja Casablanca 1 Dunfermline 3
Memorable Match #97
Said Saddiki Testimonial Match
Mohammed V Stadium, Casablanca
Wednesday 17 January 2001
In a pleasantly cool evening of a hot and sunny African day, Jimmy Calderwood’s Dunfermline came of age. The continent had no bigger and better than Raja Casablanca, a side most back home would recognise from last year’s World Club Championships.
There they lost by the odd goal to both Corinthians and Real Madrid yet in the national stadium of Morocco, the Mohammad V Stadium, Dunfermline beat them by 3 goals to 1.
It might seem incredible but when the quality of the performance and the appreciative reaction from the supporters of Casablanca are taken into consideration this was a truly fantastic achievement.
Dressed in red tops with white shorts it was hard to believe that it was a Pars side we were watching. Even more impressive was the display of strength in depth that every substitution proved. This was a night to be moved by the arena, both sets of supporters and the occasion.
The Mohammad V Stadium is a large ground with a roof only on one side. There is a running track around the lush looking playing surface and an unusually poorly filled long jump pit given the amount of sand in this country. No stadium announcements were made all night so it was difficult to know at times just what was going on.
Dunfermline started the game strongly and it became obvious that the Raja side was an amalgam of youth and previous Raja players. The Pars were all over their opponents for the first quarter of an hour. David Moss and Stevie Crawford interlinked and then sent the ball out left for Chris McGroarty to cross but the keeper was first to it.
There was an alert on 11 minutes when a fierce pass back slipped passed Marco’s right hand post. McGroarty was next off on a run down the left but Youssef Rossi playing for his old team headed the cross to safety. Three minutes later there were oooos from both sets of supporters as Scott Thomson’s shot went close.
Justin Skinner kept the Pars in it with a double block as the Moroccans countered and two attackers burst into the penalty box. The home support who had been pretty quiet sudden burst out into the most incredible din.
Rizki made an opening for himself as he fought off the challenges of Scott Thomson but Marco Ruitenbeek brought off one of his best ever saves for the Pars to totally stun the Raja support. Barry Nicholson shot a Michel Doesburg cross high over the bar and you were beginning to think that we should really be cashing in on this select Raja side.
After 28 minutes Michel Doesburg pushed the ball towards the right side corner flag. Stevie Crawford was quickly on to it turned and crossed. The keeper came for it but failed to hold it and David MOSS was on hand to net with his foot.
Barry Nicholson had a great individual effort which just went over the crossbar with the keeper swinging on it. But things then went slightly wrong and Laflifi got the better of Andrius Skerla to fire a firm low shot into the net. 1-1
At this stage the referee stopped the match and Said Saddiki, whose testimonial the match was in aid of, left the pitch, received gifts and did a lap of honour. While all this was going on the match resumed and Nicholson made a break that sent Moss out right; he twisted and turned but the keeper cut out his cross before the ball could reach Crawford or Nicholson.
Half time: Raja Casablanca 1 Dunfermline 1
One each at half time and you had to fear for what was going to happen next. The real Raja took the field for the second half and immediately served notice that the friendly was over.
Ruitenbeek was forced to bring off yet another two wonderful saves. In the 51st minute he tipped a netbuster over the crossbar. The next he was diving to his left to make a fine two handed save from a 25 yard torpedo.
Youssef made a crunching tackle on 59 minutes that only he could get away with and quitened the threat of the Raja centre forward. The Pars confidence was growing. The ball was being stroked about both up front and at the back. The home fans made a ripple of appreciation which was to grow over the next ten minutes.
In any match there is always a period where the match is won or lost and it was the ten minutes between the hour and the 70th minute. Chris McGroarty had a cross from the left that almost caught Chadzi out and soon after young Chris had a run forward, beating two or three defenders before passing to Lee Bullen on the 18 yard line. Lee touched it back for Crawford but the shot was high off target.
Chris was then substituted and the Moroccans recognised his contribution by giving him the largest ovation of the evening save that for Saddiki.
Jason Dair and Gary Mason had a hand in the move that led to Dunfermline scoring their second goal. The ball was played hard into the right side of the Raja penalty area. Stevie stopped it before it went out and cut it back across the face of the goals where Lee BULLEN rose to head it home.
This was unbelievable but it got better. Stewart Petrie was impeded as he set off down the left and Barry Nicholson took the resultant free kick. The ball sailed over the Raja defence and Scott THOMSON stole in to slide it passed goalkeeper Chadzi. 1-3
Was it time to waken from the dream, no this was all true!
Above: images of Youssef Rossi as a Pars player
Ironically Youssef Rossi almost let Raja in through a moment of slackness but Scott Thomson who had taken over from Ruitenbeek saved well.
Still we came forward and when Lee Bullen was fouled on the edge of the box there was real concern in Raja’s ranks. Youssef forced a good save from the goalie. Five minutes from time a 20 yard free kick was really well hit but Scott Thomson dived to save high to his left.
The Raja fans were filtering towards the exits but in the first minute of added time stopped to see if a one on one could scrape a goal but Scott Thomson again produced a top class save.
John Yorkston was full of pride after the famous victory in the Mohammed V Stadium, he told the website:-
“I am absolutely delighted with our performance. They are one of the top teams in the World and we outplayed them. It was the kind of thing that you expect to get done to you by the Arsenals and the Feyenoords. Luckily we have learned from the earlier games and I am totally overwhelmed by that performance.”
Commenting on the praises shown by the Raja fans he added:-
“The home support where giving loud applause to the Dunfermline players simply because they deserved it. Chris McGroarty deserved his because he is an exciting player and no matter what continent you come from you know and appreciate exciting players.”
RAJA CASABLANCA: First half: Mohammed Bouabdellaoui: Hamid Nater, Ighir, Youssef Rossi, Hicham Misbah, Said Saddiki (Allouche 35), El Haddadoui, Dolmy, Bouderbala, Tarik Rizki, Khalifi Second half: Mustapha Chadzi: Mohammed Kharbouch, Mohammed Khoubache, Hafid Abdessadek, Bekkari, Omar Nejjary (Allouche 76), Badji, Cheikh Sarre, Dahane, Bouchaib El Moubarki, El Haimeur.
SCORERS: Khalifi (35)
DUNFERMLINE: Marco Ruitenbeek (Scott Y Thomson 71): Michel Doesburg (Gary Mason 60), Andrius Skerla (Andy Tod 71), Scott Thomson, Justin Skinner (John Potter 85), Chris McGroarty (Stewart Petrie 66), Steven Hampshire (Jason Dair 45), Barry Nicholson (Rob Matthaei 71), Ian Ferguson (Youssef Rossi 45 (Kevin McLeish 86)), Stevie Crawford (Marinus Dijkhuizen 79), David Moss (Lee Bullen 45)
SCORERS: Moss (28), Bullen, Thomson
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