On a cool October Sunday evening, the firsts made their annual trip to the heart of Long Island to face the local Juventus side, at ‘The Field of Dreams’ (no kidding) park in Massapequa. Buoyed by the thumping dished out by the reserves earlier in the day, the firsts were looking to recover their winning ways in style after two tough defeats. However this well-founded optimism began to evaporate just before kickoff when first, a couple of players got lost (Massapequa is hard to type correctly) and arrived late, prompting a change in the line-up. Not to be outdone, the referee showed up half an hour late as well, with only one linesman (to be honest, its a pity the linesman came at all). Apparently he was sent to the wrong field, perhaps Old Trafford is also in LI?
Finally the game got underway and within five minutes it was clear that the Italians were no pushovers. Even without Pirlo and Vidal, obviously rested for the Champions League clash against Real on Wed, Juve had several skillful midfielders who were causing lost of problems with their quick counter-attacking game. The Whites were having trouble dealing with the Italian tactics and had Ben to thank for a superb save early on to keep the game scoreless. Although the possession in midfield was clearly lacking the entire half, the Whites did begin to assert themselves as the game progressed, and found some joy down the wings with crosses from Paul, Kwesi, and Hychem creating havoc, and only desperate defending preventing a tap-in. Carlos then had a good shot on goal which was saved by the keeper, but overall the team knew that it just wasn’t good enough.
The Whites reshuffled their line-up at half-time with Ruben coming in at right back and Mike stepping into the midfield, and there was some improvement in the play, though no clear chances to show for it. The Italians were sticking to their long-ball-lay-it-off-and-run tactics and around the 60th minute it finally worked. The sleepy linesman who already fluffed a similar call earlier, failed to call a clear offside, the Whites’ back-line didn’t recover in time and the striker finished off the break-away with a well placed shot. For a moment it was hard to believe that a comeback was on the cards, but the Whites went bold, switched to three in the back and increased the pressure dramatically. Soon after, Kwesi managed to outpace a defender and was clumsily tripped just inside the penalty area. Mike took responsibility but hit the ensuing penalty too close to the middle, though to be fair, the keeper was off his line to make the save. With the clock now ticking against them, the Whites continued to pin the Italians back as several crosses and set pieces went begging. The midfielders were winning all the second balls and it was only inevitable when one well-recovered ball was worked to Ben Hirsch who found himself in oceans of space on the 5-yard line. As cool as the other side of the pillow, Ben slowed down time and rolled the ball into the net, prompting some emphatic (embarrassing?) celebrations.
The job wasn’t done yet as the Whites were intent on avoiding penalties, and with the full moon shining brightly behind the trees, continued to hound the Italians who were growing frustrated, and putting in some nasty late challenges on Carlos and Edgar. Of course, as we’ve come to expect from every Hollywood romance movie, in the end the gallant one must break the lady’s heart. And as banal as it may seem, the Whites did just that when with five minutes to go, Mike popped up in the penalty area to head in the winning goal (and show Kwesi, who missed his own header earlier, how its done). The team saw out the remaining minutes comfortably, and walked off the field more relieved than happy, well aware that their performance will be scrutinized in the morning papers.
Introducing the ultimate player ratings system:
Rating / Comment
1 — Should have been a Milkman
2 — Any relation to futbol is purely accidental
3 — Sound mind but crazy feet
4 — Thanks for coming
5 — Solid
6 — People took notice
7 — Sign him up
8 — What are you smoking? I want some too!
9 — Is this Iniesta, Xavi, or Messi?
10 — Possessed by the devil himself
Team: Ben L(6.0), Nick(5.0), Matt(5.0), Paul(5.5), Mike(5.5), Eli(?), Riso(5.0),
Hychem (Ruben 45′,5.5), Ben H(5.5), Carlos(5.0)(Edgar 65′,6.0), Kwesi(5.0)