A friendly against one of the best teams in the city after a long spell off, promised to be a very close encounter.
After a very intense warm up (I can only assume) we lost “Chocolate ankles” to injury but were ready for an intense start as always. Coach Colin named his squad and whispered his instructions. I will guess it went something along the lines of…”We are the best team in the league but don’t take these guys for granted, they are a serious team that can beat anyone on their day, lets get at them from day one…. Fola stay wide, Martin use your size and lets look for our captain high”
As always the start was intense and we pressed well but for the opening exchanges Japan had the better of the possession and were containing our threats well. The opening came from a very well taken goal by the Japanese, some fine passes in the middle (that we failed to close down) lead to the ball being spread wide for the left winger to smack one from 35 yards over Mirko, who managed to get a hand to it but not quite strong enough to keep it out.
We re-grouped, re-focused and re-shuffled. We managed to now get more possession and were rewarded by a very cleaver quick free kick from Sven, 50 yards over the top to the high energy playing Clem who was extremely brave to go whole heartedly into a 50 / 50 with the on rushing GK. Clem’s bravery paid dividends when his lob / shot found it’s way into the back of the next, to the dismay of the Japanese who were claiming a foul (Karma from some awful diving from their left back later in the game).
We continued with the same intensity but still lacked our killer instincts that have seen us brush aside teams this season. A few squandered chances should have seen the game put to bed.
We were however once again rewarded by a brilliant set piece from Sven from just inside the oppositions half. A brilliant diagonal run from Stephan saw him just beat the defender to the ball and guide the ball past the GK to put us 2-1 up. Has to be said that his celebration was worthy of a Mid-table Spanish team (hugely over rated).
Unfortunately the second goal seemed to take the wind out of our sails and put some fight back into Japan. They once again dominated the possession and could have themselves scored two or three goals.
From arguably the best move of the game, Japan drew level with a flowing example of great football, a number of one two’s and brilliant cross and volley finish gave Mirko no chance.
Half time and some very frustrated faces coming off the field and on the bench.
Changes made at half time seemed to be key in allowing us to really grab the game by the neck, unfortunately we were just not clinical on the day. More missed chances and wayward passes broken down the efforts we threw at Japan.
Not many notable moment until the last 10 minutes. An honorable mention Sipho “wants it” Ncube, who sprinted a good 50-60 yards to cover a loss of possession from his team mate and put in arguably one of the tackles of the year to save us from what was almost certainly going to be a test for Mirko if not a goal.
With about 4 mins left to play and the scores even, Colin made his final changes of the game.
However it was Japan that capitalized first, a laps in concentration down the right hand side of our defense allowed the very fast Japanese striker to get one on one with Mirko, who did very well to get down and get a hand on the ball but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball from hitting the back of the net. Subsequently this also resulted in Mirko being injured due to a goal falling on his ankle. Speedy recovery Mirko.
With about 30 seconds left on the clock we threw everything into a last ditched effort. With Clem, Hoggy and Fola (that’s a scary amount of speed to have running at you) poised to sprint after the center was passed back to Foxy. With his 3rd touch of the game, he hit the ball into the left channel where the three strikers were racing to get on the end. Hoggy one the final two battles of the game, firstly beating Fola and Clem to the ball, then calmly rounding the Keeper to make it 3-3.
Svens incredible two assists and work rate in the middle saw him nominated man of the match and surely puts him in contention for a start in next weeks match against Vikings….
Foxy nominated as Turkey for turning up one hour late… punishment severed with 4 mins of play and this beautiful report.
Looking forward to what will be a tough game in the league next week in the league.