The summer has been drawing to an abrupt close, so Matt and I thought we should face off to see who’s all talk and who can actually deliver when it comes to football. The location was a hard basketball/4 a side football court near a local Sainsbury’s supermarket, and the teams were Oli and Joel vs Matt, Peter and Damir. The weather was cool with a light wind and the support was minimal, to say the least. The rules were standard football rules except that you can’t shoot from your own half. There was also some confusion over tackling, with Matt accusing Oli of implementing a ‘no tackling in the opposition’s half’ rule, which effectively rules out a comeback from the losing team, so the rule was eventually abolished and play resumed, a few minutes in.
15 minutes a half ended up to prove a little too long, and the scoreboard got out of hand within only the first couple of minutes. It was, to the surprise of many, that Oli and Joel took the lead initially by making the most of slack passing from the opposition, but then the extra man really told and they were able to come back and take a 3-1 lead. After this, they opted (somewhat ironically, given the manner in which the conceded the majority of the goals) for the ‘Barcelona passing style’, and they each took on an alias – Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.
This new technique seemed to work out for the team at first, and while they were still full of energy, they were able to maintain possession impressively and tire Oli and Joel, who kept switching from being in and out of goal. However, a Pepsi later, and the rejuvenated combination was able to claw itself back into the match, but consequentially leaving itself very open at the back. By this time, goals were flooding through, and the score got to an incredible 11-9 at half time in favour of Matt, Peter and Damir, who had been ahead f0r most of this time thanks to a flurry of goals from Damir.
A brief pause, and a switch of ends later, and normal play was resumed, with many more goals, getting more spectacular each time, being scored. But it appeared that Team Matt was tiring, and twice Oli and Joel were able to get on level terms, only to see themselves pegged back again and again. Oli was lucky to stay on the pitch thanks to lenient refereeing from opposition player Matt, after a handball that prevented a goal, but it was lucky for the match that he was only given a yellow, for 3 on 1 would have meant the end for Team Oli. Then, with his team ahead by two goals, Matt decided to take the resultant free kick himself, but somehow manage to balloon the shot well out of the grounds – resulting in an additional 3 minutes added on at the end. After returning, he somehow managed to pick up a spot of cramp but was able to overcome it to finish the game. With the score delicately poised at 20-18 to Matt’s team, Oli and Joel were able to combine brilliantly to force a 19th goal, and a shocking defensive mishap allowed Oli in again to equalise in the dying seconds and send the game to penalties. Final score: 20-20.
With only two players on the team, Oli and Joel had a lot of work to do. Oli and Damir were the designated keepers, and both were unable to keep out the first two efforts, including a truly remarkable effort from Peter. However, by the time Damir stepped up for his first kick, one could see he was not confident. His shot went straight at Oli, who gratefully kept it out of the goal. Every remaining kick was dispatched, with Oli hitting the winning kick. Matt requested an additional shootout, but Oli and Joel were having none of it, and they retired with a satisfactory victory with one fewer players. Oli and Joel win 5-4 on penalties.
Matt – 6.5 – Played through the pain of a broken toe, and showed flashes of brilliance but also some patches of rustiness after not having played football for a few years. “That was possibly the worst pass… ever”
Damir – 7.5 – Matt’s Team’s best player by a mile, and current top goalscorer. He was involved in every move, and was instrumental and energetic throughout.
Peter – 6 – The team will not forgive him in a hurry for the early slip up that allowed Oli’s Team to take an early advantage, nor will they be terribly happy that he only turned up to the match a few seconds before kick off, but his inch-perfect penalty in the shootout and awareness to nick goals off the opposition showed why they shelled out all that money to sign him back in January.
Oli – 6.5 – Became tired and predictable quite quickly, and was not always able to offer his team-mate the best options. However, he honed his finishing skills with some neat finishes, notably a few from very tight angles, and he performed admirably in the shootout. A mixed bag, to say the least.
Joel – 7 – Selfless as ever, Joel also put in a perfect shootout performance and scored some of the more important goals for his side and deserved to be on the winning side despite being seemingly unable to head the ball throughout the match.