Britannia (4) 4
7, 10, 21, 29
New Team (3) 5
13, 16, 25, 39, 41
A game of extraordinary thrills and spills played at a tempo and with a passion that merited more than the paltry crowd of players girlfriends that turned out to watch. As the sun set on an unseasonably warm February afternoon, there was a buzz of anticipation surrounding this fixture. Britannia still missing key players, including talismanic goalkeeper Suñer to injury, mustered together a team roster that saw Keane return from suspension and Gilman returning from injury considerably earlier than expected.
The game set off at a blistering tempo, both teams stretching each other and reassessing tactics almost immediately. Neither team wanting to lose first blood, but both needing the win. The tiki taka Britannia spirit came out to play in these opening stages and the well worked team moves, distributing the ball forward quickly and laying off for overlap runs had the opposition on the back foot. Two early goals were crafted by the Brits in such fashion, as marauding waves of white shirts descended on the New Team goal. It seemed finally that luck was on the turn and that the team was finally starting to click with style and precision.
A chink of light in the armour was found as against the run of play a ball over the top saw as Borja Ramos Barnuevo (taking goalkeeper duties while his ankle continued to heal), came out to cover the attacker, the interception was good but the bounce was cruel and the ball spun away from him and enabled the opposition to strike back at an empty net.
The second was struck as Britannia were regrouping, a shot from some distance that set the match back on an even footing.
Britannia continued to look dangerous and the fierce speed of the match continued unhindered, with Britannia once again taking the lead through a Piedrafita rasping shot that went in off the far post with the keeper well and truly beaten, before New Team once again pegged the Brits back in quick reply.
The story of the match was emerging on the Brit's right wing though. Gilman, rushed back from injury seemed to be playing like a man possessed with the combined channelled spirits of Ryan Giggs and Dave McKay. Turning opposition players for fun, finding pace to surge on runs and the hunger to return to his own box to clear danger with the commitment of a Spartan. It fell to him to claim the memorable moment in this extraordinary first half. Keane, harrying down the left found space inside his man and lashed a wicked ball across the area. At first it seemed destined for Piedrafita but it's target was Gilman sat outside the area on the far post. He shaped himself over it and met the moving ball with grace. The shot stayed low and swerved between the keeper and his near post. Gilman wheeled around and celebrated like the love child of Alan Shearer and Marco Tardelli. The team and the bench engulfed him. He had waited a long time to open his scoring account and he had done it with some style, the joy that the team displayed was on his behalf.
The half drew to a close and the teams caught their breath, it could not be possible that they would continue with this scintillating entertainment could it?
New Team shifted tactics to start the second half, leaving a man on the offside line and briefly causing uncertainty in the Britanico defence. Unsure whether to hold the line high or come back deep, the gap was exploited and the match levelled.
What turned out to be the winning goal will be rued by the Brits for some time to come. Both Wells and Solar attempted to clear lines on the outside of the area, the ball hung in the air and Solar went to hammer it clear with his boot. The referee called an Indirect free kick in the area for the attempt, citing a high boot as dangerous play. Aggrieved the Brits cleared the resultant attempt but the rebound was rifled back in, Ramos blocked it with his ankle and yelped in pain, as he attempted to return to his line he could not prevent the goal that was scored.
The Brit's upped their game with grim determination. Morrisey looking more and more assured on the ball every game, turning midfielders inside out with a languid ease, Perez back in outfield duties bombing forward to add depth and threat to the attacking line, the front line continuing to cause panic in the opposition defence but not finding that finishing touch. New Team began to show signs of stress under the pressure, losing patience, giving away fouls, arguing with the referee as the clock ticked down. The tension was palpable, the price too high.
Britannia probed further, neat interwoven passes threatening much, but moves being broken up by fouls. Tamargo brought down on the turn, Keane chopped at the ankles, Solar held back, Wells sliced on the run. Free kicks came close, but did not hit home.
Keane found space one on one but the keeper blocked it and the rebound saw the danger fade away, Tamargo came close, Solar found passes in the final third but as the clock approached a conclusion something had to give.
It was Keane that once again was the focus point for the explosive talking point of the second half. A challenge for the ball along with their keeper saw tempers flare over and their keeper lunged at the Britanico's neck, Keane pushed him back and the two bowed up to each other as the players on both teams descended on the scene. The referee issued their keeper a straight red and as the final 5 minutes ticked into view maybe the Brits could grab a deserved draw. At brake neck speed they surged forward, Tamargo almost connecting with a header, Keane through to the left and dragged a shot wide of the post with Gilman imploring, open, in front of goal. It was the last roll of the dice.
A furiously fast and eventful game that saw moments of sublime skill and scenes of hostility. An emotional concoction that Britannia somehow contrived to lose. Disbelief and frustration ate at the players as they left the field. Games are running out, the sun is furiously setting on this extraordinary adventure of team spirit carved out of unsuspecting minds. An inexplicable result elsewhere that saw fellow stragglers Ratas smack runaway league leaders for eight without reply stunned the entire league and compounded the misery.
The Brits must dust themselves off and prepare to launch a further assault, eternity may not await them, but the right to challenge this league once more is prize enough.
Follow the team here
Visit the team sponsor Academia Britannia
Click here to see the facebook photo gallery of the team in action
Check out the previous From The Halfway Line podcast including interviews with team members