Updated: Dec 28, 2019
Midfielder plays his last game in a bottom of the table clash to close out the year.
Británicos (1) 3
Keane 20, 33, Morris 48
Los Olivos (0) 1
Parque Ebro 16/12/18 17:30
Wells, Slater, Ferns, Pernas, Gilman, Keane, Morris, Shaw, Rooney, Kinsella
There were tears and soft whimpers of acceptance as the enormity of events cast a long shadow over the Brtis. This was unrelated to the final appearance by Matt Keane prior to his big money move to Speke Sharks and more about the after effects of the very successful Club Christmas social.
This was a must win game for both sides, and as the warm up reached a conclusion the Olivos gathered in a huddle to dig deep for inspiration, the Brits continued to fire relentless and rapid shots at their stand in keeper. With Cabañero unavailable for a second match in a row, Wells had a chance to banish the haunting memories of the previous horror show. Ferns was back to full fitness to start alongside Slater at the back, Pernas and Gilman on the wings with Keane holding the centre and Morris up front. It was a line up full of attacking intent and steel.
The opening exchanges were tentative, but the Exiles exuded confidence and a clear strategy. The defence was impressive, the Olivos found the door slammed solidly shut and the Brits attacked with fluidity and poise, carving out opportunities on almost every surge forward. The Brits profligacy in front of goal was startling. Keane, full of enthusiasm tried overhead strikes twice without luck. Morris skimmed a header across the goalmouth and then missed from close range. Gilman lofted the ball well over the bar in front of goal and Keane was then off target after Morris cued him up in the box. The inability to hit the target was a source of frustration, but the moves forward were fluid and a joy to watch. Pernas caused havoc on the left hand side, while Morris and Keane were combining with flair in the middle. Gilman toiled down the right with his characteristic determination and unwillingness to surrender the ball
At the back, Slater and Ferns were a defiant pairing. Blocking progress at all opportunities in a defensive performance that would have made Mourinho proud. The opposition finally got a half chance down the Brit left and the shot was rifled off the near post. As the half wore on another half chance came their way but the close range header, although aimed low, lacked power and was palmed away.
Rotation saw Kinsella come on for Pernas, Shaw for Gilman and Rooney for Ferns The changes worked well and the team kept their shape and style.
Frustration began to set in for the Olivos but their defensive efforts only got as far as unleashing the Brit's most powerful weapon, their long throw. This put them under increasing pressure and it was from one of these trademark moves that saw Keane connect with a diving header at the far post to put the Brits ahead. It was a poor return for the amount of pressure they had piled on, but the Brits continued to play their expansive passing game, building rapidly from the back. As the half drew to a close the Olivos finally sprung the Exile back line, but Wells came out to narrow the angle and blocked the shot on the edge of the area.
The half time team talk was positive as the Brits were determined to continue their game plan, take their chances and were out and ready to play long before the end of the break.
The second half got underway in similar fashion as the Brits pressed hard to double their advantage. They created half chances and had the Olivos on the back foot but nothing as clear cut as the wasted moments in the first half. The success was not just in their attacking style but also the high energy work rate in their pressing. The Brits refused to give the opposition any space or time on the ball. Although the dominance was clear, the team wanted a second to help ease the nerves, it would only take a moment of lapsed concentration to let the opposition back in the hunt.
The Olivos started to go to ground more and found more opportunities from set pieces, it was a quick counter attack from once of these that saw the Brits finally put away their second. a quick ball from Rooney down the wing to Kinsella who lofted a ball into the path of Keane got pulses racing. Keane flipped the ball over the oncoming defender and took the shot on the volley to leave the keeper no chance. A second for the departing hero, one for the scrapbook, from a wonderfully weighted assist.
The relief was palpable, but the opposition stepped up their efforts. In a move that finally saw them start to string some decent passes to gather, they played their way out of trouble and moved forward as a unit. The ball sat up for a strike from the edge of the area but Wells got down to his left to palm it away. The resultant corner came low and fast to the near corner and their striker pounced on it only to send it wide. It was a warning for Rooney and Wells.
The Brtis continued to pass the ball around well, the pace of Shaw down the right getting in behind the defence and putting the ball across the face of the goal on more than one occasion, but as legs began to tire, the Olivos started to find more luck in their endeavours too. Another free kick was hoisted over the wall and pushed onto the bar, Rooney clearing the rebound, before a further drive was punched out only as far as an opposition striker who launched back at goal. Wells leaped high and back to his left, barely recovering from his previous save, to redirect the ball away for the corner. Plaudits and new nicknames were to be short-lived though as the opposition finally broke their duck from the corner. The same move as earlier saw the striker ghost between Rooney and Wells at the near post once more and this time hit the ball back across the goal and in what felt like slow motion it nestled behind the far post.
The nerves crept in a little, the Brits had lost a two goal lead once before this season and as the Olivos threw themselves at the chase for the equaliser the game picked up in intensity. chances started to open up at both ends, for the Brits, Shaw had a close range shot blocked, much to his annoyance, the referee halted a goal line scramble for a high boot and then in an uncharacteristic moment of lost concentration the opposition actually broke with four attackers on one defender. It seemed to look hopeless for the Brtis but the attacker dithered and was tackled. They did break the defensive line once, but the attacker used his hand to control the ball and the referee called the infringement.
Slater was a commanding presence at the back, and both Rooney and Ferns looked comfortable alongside him. In fact, the whole side looked assured. It seemed the Brits had weathered the storm as their keeper was never really tested again.
Rooney took a card for the team as he cynically blocked a runner, moments after demonstrating a half pirouette, a move that seems to have been christened the "Will Whirl" The resultant free kick was sent high. As the Brits burst forward again a dinked ball into the box had the Olivos heading over their keeper and off the bar. It was a pulsating and engrossing second half. The game was finally put to bed by Morris. Taking a free kick that he smacked home to the overwhelming relief of the Brits. Curiously, attracting the anger of the opposition WAGS in vocal support, including the cry for the Brits to talk in Spanish. Keane happily obliged by informing them the goal was "muy bien", a thorn in opposition sides to the very end.
Gilman was booked after delivering a typically robust challenge, although the booking seemed to be for catching the player behind him in the face. Only Gilman could be able to take two players out of action with one challenge.
The final whistle came as Shaw broke up an attack down the right and the teams congratulated each other on a game that had been an enjoyable spectacle. Keane had signed off his Spanish footballing adventure with two great goals, albeit frustrated not to have got a hat trick, Wells had successfully erased the abheration of the last match and the rest of the team had begun to move with confidence and ease. Keane will be a loss, but there is talent and understanding to fill the gap, and options a plenty to look to.
The players gathered to toast their success and bid a final farewell to their diminutive dynamo. A Christmas break will deny the team a chance to build any momentum, but things are looking much better for the Brits as we look to the new year for the return of liquid football. Like a Christmas pudding soaked in brandy and set alight, the Brit game is exhilarating, unpredictable, rich and likely to leave you with a sore head.
Matt, you will be missed, but there will always be a place on the roster for you...unless we find someone to fit your shirt, so yeah, fella...leave us your shirt...happy travels la xx