Updated: Nov 12, 2020
A From The Halfway Line Match Report
FutZaragoza 7's Segunda Division - Domingo Tarde
Tafad Crew 0
@ CMF Valdefierro
Javier Perez Morata, Borja Ramos Barnuevo (Y), Merrick Wells (Y), Alberto Piedrafita (G - 14), David Morrissey, Matt Keane (R), Francisco Javier Solar Fernando, Jason Morris (Y)
The Britannia team have struggled with the superior standard of the second division after promotion last season. That challenge has been compounded by a substantial change in personnel and it has taken time for the squad to start to understand each other. When it is further understood that they do not train either, their story of development and improvement is akin to a small time fairy tale, played out weekly on plastic grass with no fanfare.
This latest match was eagerly anticipated by a core of the squad who had resisted an onslaught of impressive attacks from Tafad Crew earlier in the season only to succumb to a double sucker punch in the dying moments of the game. It had been a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful execution of a defensive counter attacking tactic. The taste of defeat had been made all the more bitter by the enthusiasm of the opposition to call for fouls and bookings from the referee as they got increasingly frustrated by the stoic opposition.
The game came on the back of a mauling for Britannia in the previous week. After stringing together a series of wins and finding some form they were checked by the league leaders and once again back in the drop zone.
The teams gathered on the centre circle for an impeccably observed minute’s silence held for the death of the Tony Morris, father of Britannia player Jason Morris, who had been a footballer of a considerably higher standard than anyone turning out for this game, and then with grim determination and defiance, attention turned to the matter at hand.
Britannia goalkeeper Suñer, so often the inspirational leader setting an example of impossible and improbable performances was still recovering from a badly dislocated finger. He has recently taken the role of managing the team from the bench which has helped give clarity to the tactics and rotating subs, Perez, once again deputising ably in goal, but denying Britannia a defender of prowess with an ability to score goals from extraordinary distance.
The opening exchanges were tentative, Tafad probing to find the weaknesses in the Britannia line up which had reverted to a more familiar 2-3-1 instead of the 3-2-1 employed when the two teams had previously met. The Crew unquestionably had a greater supply of talent and team familiarity about them but this time the Britannia attack had more bite, more passing, more speed; and the fluidity of these attacks put them on the back foot. Within just a few short minutes Morris found himself in the box and Wells had surged forward unmarked to the far post, the ball skittered across the goal mouth and spun agonisingly wide of the post off the outstretched studs of Wells. It was a stark warning of what was to come. Britannia, looked dangerous on the attack.
The pattern of play continued with Tafad stretching Britannia with technical skill and accurate passing, but failing to get anything more than shots from distance which sailed safely wide. The defensive line was holding.
Keane on the right flank started to terrorise the opposition, a lynch pin playmaker with a low centre of gravity, his every run sent dismay through the defensive ranks. His link up play with the physically imposing Morris up front was proving fruitful and with Piedrafita and Solar in defiant mood in support, Britannia started to impose on the game.
A free kick on the right hand side was whipped in with a late dip and swerve from Morris, forcing the keeper into a save. Quick breaks with effective passing between the front four were finding opportunities and one such move, rapidly becoming characteristic of the team’s approach play, led to the goal. Ramos played a ball from defence over the top to Keane who latched onto it coming inside from the right flank, as he dribbled toward the box, Piedrafita found space to the left. He took the pass on the volley from the edge of the box and it sailed past an unsuspecting keeper into the far corner. Britannia were rewarded for their industry and defiance and felt hungry for more.
Tafad were rocked and Britannia started to press for a second, sensing the panic and uncertainty. Morris collided with their keeper which raised the temperature and shortly after, Wells, rotated on for Morris was then booked for an innocuous foul and Tafad started to seek out free kicks and call on the referee for further cards.
Britannia were not to be overawed though. The step overs, tricks and fancy footwork did garner further fouls, non with malice, but as each player went down the Crew became more and more irate and Britannia felt further aggrieved by the decisions. Ramos read a reverse step trick on the edge of his box and put his trailing leg behind him to block the ball. The opposition player tumbled and howls of protest erupted. A further booking resulted yet the free kick was of no major concern.
As Tafad rallied, the half came to a close with Britannia coming desperately close to a second once more. Another impressive and effective break saw the team sweep forward, Solar fizzed a wicked ball across the face of goal and despite being redirected goalward a defender and the keeper manged to tumble over each other and clear the threat. Britannia felt disappointed to not be 3-0 up at the break.
The second half was late to start with the Tafad keeper late in returning. The referee, despite insisting the game had to start on time, ignored the delaying tactics of the opposition which riled the Britannia team further. Tafad came at the Britannia goal with determination and flair. Within moments of the restart they threaded a ball into space and the shot at near point blank distance was blocked by Perez at full force in the face.
The Crew continued their onslaught but Britannia weathered the storm, albeit collecting a further yellow card. Opportunities in front of goal were reduced once more to long distance efforts and Britannia began to press Tafad in return. As the minutes ticked away, Britannia began to find space in behind as Tafad chased an equalizer with a gathering sense of urgency. Surging runs from the front three in unison forced the opposition to not throw everything in chase of a goal and Morris found himself called back for a controversial offside before a further opportunity collecting a rebound off the keeper bounced awkwardly and scuffed wide.
Tafad were rattled and their keeper looked unsteady. Britannia seemed more effective on the attack and the possibility of a second goal to put the game to bed, crept ever closer.
The game boiled over and took another narrative turn with just six minutes remaining as Keane shielded the ball from a harrying opposition defender in the final third on the left flank. The Tafad player puling at him and tapping at the ankles, won the ball from Keane and as he moved away, the Britannia star flicked out with petulant frustration. Tafad descended on the diminutive playmaker with naked aggression and the referee produced a straight red. The opposition continued to attempt to intimidate and provoke the player as he protested it was his first offence. A palpable change in mood was clear.
Britannia felt aggrieved but had no time to lick their wounds as Tafad seized on the numerical advantage. Britannia reverted to long balls from the back which only served to provide Tafad with the ball to launch further attacks. Having lost three previous games to extremely late goals, Britannia could have been forgiven for crumbling under the final minutes of desperate struggle. With barely seconds on the clock Wells blocked a shot inside the area which led to a corner. The delivery connected with a forceful volley that Perez somehow reached at the post and dug out on the line in a fashion that would have done Gordon Banks proud. The referee gave a second corner which was greeted with outrage by Britannia insisting that time was surely concluded. The second corner was headed back out to the flank, a further delivery came in, once again cleared desperately for a corner. Britannia rallied and once more cleared their lines and the referee finally called proceedings to a halt.
The whistle was met with loud and visible disbelief from the Tafad Crew, some slumping to the ground imploring to the skies as to how it could possibly have ended in a defeat. It is a result that, while severely dents their hopes of catching La Qumica at the top of the league, by no means derails their campaign for promotion. By way of contrast the Britannia team were delighted. The team celebrated a win that keeps their 2nd division survival alive. A win that exorcised demons of an undeserved defeat in their previous clash with this team, a win that galvanised an emerging team spirit, a win that defied the odds, a win that honoured the courage and determination of Tony Morris in his fight against terminal illness. A win he would have enjoyed watching. The team embraced in unity and triumph, they can perhaps be forgiven their moment of elation, no one outside that huddle understands how much it meant to them to deliver three points on that day.
There is something emerging from the Britannia camp, a blend of British, Irish and Spanish, disparate styles and backgrounds, varied ability and experiences, building a beating heart of something rare, something intangible, a team spirit. The Esprit de Corps has grown in strength over the season and as the climax approaches in the battle for survival in this fiercely competitive league, that elusive quality might be the unknown factor in delivering success.
R.I.P Tony Morris 1943 - 2017