|15th October 2023||11:00||Tercera Regional||2023-2024||90'|
Bags with fresh clothes, towels for a shower, wallets, phones and all the team’s possessions were there. In view but locked away and out of reach.
The man with the key was looming at the other end of the room. Though they dared not make eye contact, all knew his expression without dragging their eyes off the floor.
Rami’s bollocking, when it came after a heavily pregnant pause, broke on the changing room walls and washed away the silence. His great vengeance and furious anger were manifest in a Tsunami of swearing and spitting.
A dispassionate observer might have been struck by the bizarre futility of a grown man screaming at a room of people who had not personally wronged him. A lifelong football fan might have understood.
As it turned out the manager did not have the key and nor did anyone else. Thrown away in an impotent pique of anger or lost through a hole in a pocket—a small mistake. The manner of the loss was ultimately unimportant.
Losing is tough and losing from the sidelines can be infuriating. FC Britanico had lost this one with nobody to blame but themselves.
The fourth match of the campaign against FC Venezuela had started without any portents of the wave of exasperated expletives that were to follow.
FCB had reverted to their historically successful 3-5-2 formation with Harry and Pádraig up front, EQ, Murph and Calum in the middle, Joe and Ed on the wings and Arren, Josh and Omar at the back in front of Marco.
Venezuela are no mugs and had given the Brits a hard time the last time the two extranjero teams played. They had come ready to battle again, were contesting well in midfield and were not afraid to play long.
After half chances at both ends the opening goal came on 41 minutes and was familiar in its construction.
Harry did well to hold up the ball, turn and deliver a cross which strike partner Pädraig nodded in unmarked at the back post.
Before kick-off, Coach Si had stressed the importance of the Brits’ backline playing deeper to create space behind their opponents. At half-time, there was an adjustment to that theory as the lads were told to push up when possible and close gaps that had started to appear between the lines.
The second half was about second balls. Britanico lost their fair share of them against opponents who hadn’t allowed their heads to drop.
One ricochet outside the box led to a cross that caught FCB’s wingback on his heels. The ball bounced off his thigh and fell to a Venezuelan midfielder who swept home just beyond the reach of a sprawled Marco.
The defending from FCB wasn’t laissez faire but nor was it adequate. A few minutes after drawing level, Venezuela were in front thanks to a poorly positioned centre half and a spectacular misjudgement from Marco.
The Guatemalan goalkeeper advanced off his line and wafted a right leg at thin air allowing the Venezuelan striker a tap-in.
There was another swing and a miss shortly after at the other end.
Once again Harry, as he does so well, found space to lash a ball across the six-yard box. Unfortunately, there was no spike registered on the Snickometer as an unmarked Eric Murphy failed to make contact with his left foot at the near post. The ball dribbled harmlessly out of play.
Changes came as Murph and EQ were replaced by Antonio and Will. Luigi and Karlos then took to the field as Ed and a disgruntled-looking Joe were hooked.
As the surly Yorkshireman slumped himself down on the sidelines FCB twisted the tie back their way.
A cross wasn’t dealt with and after a goalmouth melee, Harry managed to poke home for 2-2. Fist pumps and c’mons all round.
Although Will was forced off with the recurrence of an injury and Harry got involved in some Veno-bargy, there was no big turning point. No refereeing decision or big moment swung the game. No tiring of limbs or narrative of the physical decline of an ageing team here.
Ultimately it was nothing more than minor mistakes which, like others before them, compounded into the concession of a soft goal.
Not taking that extra shuffle step in coverage, not checking your shoulder, not receiving the ball on the back foot, not communicating. They all happen plenty at this level, you just hope that when they do they aren’t contiguous.
Today they were like London busses though. Several of those small lapses led to another ball raking across FCB’s back line from left to right. Marco and Arren looked at each other as the Venezuelan striker snuck between them and planted a finish in at the near post.
Rami’s sanity was receding like the tide before a Tsunami.
The men in black enjoyed a significant height advantage over their South American opponents and had been a threat from crosses. They turned to this tactic as the minutes drained away. Arren, and then when things were more desperate, Marco, launched balls forward.
Josh almost managed to sneak in around the back from one set play but sent the ball over.
Crosses gliding just over heads, legs just in the way and chances falling to the wrong people. It wasn’t to be in the last minutes and FCB fell to a first defeat of the season. Final score 3-2.
The lads will now be very conscious of the small errors that give the gaffer grief and will be fixing them in training.
|Calle San Lamberto, 21, 28017 Madrid, España|