Match Day 11
It stands just over 3.5cm, with a rod that’s about 22cm. The Subbuteo ‘keeper. Most times it’s all that stands between you and an opponent smacking a goal, and usually all you can do is position it and grimly hope for the best. And then there are times when your reflexes with the ‘keeper rise to another level and seemingly no matter how well your opponent shoots, you manage to get the keeper across, up, down, to block the shot. So it was with my encounter with Raffaele, the latest instalment in our encounters on the Subbuteo pitch.
With Raff hoping for some mathematically incredible results at the other venue to grab the Spring League title, he dominated the first half, and a large slice of the second period in our encounter. Superb build-ups, great patience and delicate flicks put him in position to rain shots on my goal. But time and time again I somehow saved. One particular one stood out: a great hard shot from the right roared towards the top left hand corner, yet a flick of the wrist and the tips of the keeper’s hand deflected in out. In the second period, Raff pushed even harder, and I was convinced with 5 mins gone that he would score, but a defensive block did enough to deaden the coming shot. And then the inevitable…
With 7 minutes to go, and really my first attack and definitely my first shot, I scored, with a neat angled shot from the left to the far bottom corner. Raff piled on the pressure, gaps appeared, and a precise long shot from just inside the half popped the ball over his keeper for a second. He fought gamely and got one back with 2 ½minutes left, but I parked the bus and held the ball to run down the clock. There’s always next time, Raff.In the evening’s opening game, Dom Grenot found himself on the receiving end of a spanking from Daniele Lombardi. Dome couldn’t get his defensive flicking in order and found his ‘keeper 1 on 1 against Daniele’s attackers over and over. The mercy rule was called and Dom was thankful to have the score officially recorded as 5-0.
The young players are our future, and I think we can all see them improving aspects of their game all the time. Æowyn Elmer showed some fine flicking, and an improved sense of positional play in her match against Steve Dettre, which Steve won 3-0. A bit more confidence to take the ball quickly upfield, and an awareness of which figures to flick is all she needs to improve on her results. Watching her and her sister, Imojjen, in action, there was also a common theme with some of the other newer players: what to do when the opponent is coming at you, and there is no obvious player to make a defensive flick. It comes down to basic set-up, which entails having at least a couple of “free” figures in the middle of the pitch, to harass the attacker. Don’t break up your defensive line, but instead use these figures to try and force the attacker into unwanted zones.
After his big opening game win, Daniele looked on course for another big win against Steve Dettre in their encounter, with Daniele racing to a 2-0 lead after 10 minutes. The speed of his attacks was causing issues for Steve, whose figures just wouldn’t glide, causing block flicks and flicks at the ball to drop short. Daniele scored two great goals, the first with some speed, but was also unlucky with a couple that struck the goal posts. “If the post was square…” (You had to be there!) Just before the break it could have been 3-0, but Daniele was profligate with an immense chance. Would it turn out to be a crucial miss? The simple answer is, ‘Yes’! After a super ‘polish’ of Steve’s sluggish figures at the break, they started to glide smoothly, and within the blink of an eye it was 2-1, and Daniele was on the back foot. The inevitable equaliser left the game on a knife edge for the last five minutes, as both players tried to get a win. Another super match that once again reinforced in my why I love to play this crazy game.
(reports by Steve Dettre)Meanwhile, Raffaele warmed up for his crucial encounter with Steve with a game against each of Adrian and Adam. While Adrian defended staunchly, Raffaele made the breakthrough midway through the first half with a shot that was cheekily rolled under Adrian’s ‘keeper, which was trying too hard to cover Raffaele’s normal chip to the far, top corner. He continued with regular goals for the duration, finishing with 4 in a regulation win. His game against Adam was not so straightforward, though. Adam, somewhat under the weather and having already played one game on the other side of town, put in a stellar display of accurate defensive flicking and counter-attacking danger. Raffaele seemed unlike his normal calm self, and missed many regulation flicks. He did break through Adam close to half time, though this was more down to Adam’s mistake – Raffaele positioned his attacker to shoot, then took another small touch. Seeing this, Adam reached out to try and position a defender, leaving his ‘keeper unattended. Raffaele had no trouble hitting the back of the unguarded net in the fraction of a second Adam gave him. Adam pushed hard in the second half and Raffaele, who needed the result to have any chance of taking the title, was looking nervous. It wasn’t until a few minutes before time that he was finally able to put the breathing space he needed between himself and Adam, with a second goal following one of Adam’s few poor defensive flicks of the game. And so the score finished 2-0, with Raffaele still on target, should Eliot trip up over at New Trafford. Adam was mentally and physically exhausted by now and had to forfeit his final game against Adrian. However, this meant that special guest, John Ho, visiting from Singapore, was able to have a friendly flick against both Daniele and Adrian on the spare table, Subbuteo’s ties of friendship reinforced further.
(reports by Adrian Elmer)
In the decider of who would top the stragglers, Dave Rudd had given up all hope and decided work would be a more fitting evening pastime. This left the dog fight down to Todd Giles and Gordy Dudley. The game was flicked off to about as much ado as Shane Warne’s hair growth treatment and then possession was mostly fought and scrambled for in the mid field. Todd started more confidently and had Gordy on the back foot, complete with his shaky defending and sportsmanship in gifting Todd multiple throw in opportunities. This was to be stopped short, though, as Gordy started to get a hang on flicking his players with the intent to hit the ball and not Todd’s players. Shortly after a break in Todd’s defence a quick one-two play ended with a hard felt shot at the back of Todd’s net. Todd was not to be done in and pushed for an equaliser. With some excellent build up play and Gordy’s tactics borrowed from one Raffaele, a foul was called in favour of Todd, an excellent opportunity to strike even. Unfortunately, it fell to the wayside as Gordy doggedly kept him out. The second half played out similarly to the first with both players struggling to use their midfield possession to their advantage. Once an opportunity did present itself, Gordy’s nimble play found him with a 3 on one situation, finding a clear shot rocketing in to the back of Todd’s net… Per usual one of Gordy’s men is found narrowly offside. Todd pushed hard towards the end throwing all his men in to the fray to strike even, his valiant efforts saw the brow of Gordy grow wet with each passing move. Unfortunately it was not to be as the game came to a close. 1 – 0 to Gordy.
(report by Gordy Dudley)
The first of four games on the New Trafford pitch saw Adam take on host Matt before he was due to head off to The Clubhouse for some more action. As it was, it was Adam who started brighter, moving a little more purposefully and carving out the game’s first chance. Regrettably for Adam, a well worked move on the left saw his final strike come rocketing off the upright. This seemed to set the theme for the match and, as Matt begun to get more comfortable in possession, he too was left in disbelief as his first chance of the game also slammed into the post. The half continued with neither player dominating, both keeping a steady pace with some careful and deliberate flicks in both attack and defence. Matt was left reeling after an intricately worked move in behind Adam’s defence resulted only in the crossbar being rattled! 0-0 into the break.
Next up was Fabrizio Coco against Steve Diasinos – Steve happily gloating about how he’d once beaten Fabrizio. This had the same result as waving a red flag in front of a raging bull – Fabrizio bagging his first after around 30 seconds after a (very) quick break through the middle of the pitch. This was to set the tone for the rest of the half as Steve was forced into some quick defensive flicks to try and counter Fabrizio’s face-melting attacking speed. Unable to carve out many chances, Steve was on the back foot throughout, being forced into a couple of remarkable saves with his ‘keeper. Fabrizio did eventually get the second one he was after, finishing low and hard into the far corner from out wide; Fabrizio taking a 2-0 lead into the break. Steve came into the second feeling sprightly and with a belief he could get back into the game. Whilst he did perform better throughout the half, carving out 1 or 2 half chances and forcing a few corners, it was Fabrizio whose class and skill shone through. Another 2 exquisitely worked and finished goals left Fabrizio with a thoroughly deserved 4-0 victory.
In a heavy night for Steve, he stayed on to take on the top runner in Eliot. Looking, of course, for a victory and, even more importantly, for goals which could go a long way in deciding where the title was headed, Eliot came into the game with purpose and drive. Steve defended well trying to limit Eliot’s chances in the half, and he managed to do just that. Eliot did eventually break the deadlock, but he was forced to use a defensive figure in his own shooting zone, sending an astonishing chip over Steve’s ‘keeper. Steve huffed and puffed, managing to hold possession for some good spells, but Eliot’s experience really shone through not allowing him a single change on goal. 1-0 to Eliot at the end of the first half.
The second period was very similar to the first – Steve trying to somehow force an opening in Eliot’s defence, and Eliot looking to finish the game off. Eliot did have a few chances, but Steve’s ‘keeper was in good form from the previous game, managing to save 2 or 3 great chances. Finally though, the second did come. After some amazing play up the middle and some delicate touches to get into a scoring opportunity, Eliot made no mistake burying his shot. Still somehow unperturbed, Steve didn’t lose focus and fashioned his first opportunity of the game. Some quick play and nice touches right up the spine allowed him to exploit a large gap in Eliot’s defence. Without his hand on the ‘keeper, Steve tried to shoot quickly. Having barely had a shot all night until this point though, his accuracy was off and the ball was completely missed! Blowing his chance to get back into it and clearly frustrated, he let in another goal following a swift counter up the other end. Sensing blood, Eliot rounded off a fine victory with another 2 perfectly taken shots to round out a convincing (though it was agreed somewhat blown out given the well contested battle) 5-0 victory.
“That was fast” – Fabrizio Coco, November 2015
What a start to the final game of the evening, the main event! Fabrizio opened the scoring early in the half with around a dozen flicks in about as many seconds – Eliot with barely enough time to grab the rod of his ‘keeper as the net bulged. Some intense possession based flicks from both ensued as the combatants fought to gain control over one-another. Eliot remained the calmest, though, and got in behind Fabrizio’s defence. To his despair, the crossbar rattled and the ball cleared for a throw in. An openly contested game ensued with some beautiful attacking and defensive flicks from both. Mid-way through the half, Fabrizio earned a throw in, working it magnificently up the right wing with speed and made no mistake from his chance from distance and on the sideline.
Eliot was unperturbed and fashioned a chance shortly after of his own – forcing a neat save after going for the cheeky short side on a tough angle. With just a few minutes remaining in the half, Eliot worked his way into the shooting zone intelligently to set himself for a close range chance – this time making no mistake burying it low and hard into the far left with about as impossible an amount of space you could imagine. The half ended 2-1 in favour of Fabrizio.
The first chance of the second half came early from Eliot; a delightful chip from the right flank was saved well, though. Barely half a minute later and Eliot was left to rue the miss as Fabrizio extended his lead with such speed that this reporter didn’t even see it!!! Another chance soon fell for Fabrizio as he looked to further extend the lead, but a smart shot into the bottom short side was frenetically kept out.
A fabulous midfield battle ensued, neither able to grab a stranglehold. Eliot did well to work it long up the right wing, placing a lovely centring ball for a tough shot, but Fabrizio was astute with his ‘keeper again, forcing the corner. It was Eliot’s turn to play Fabrizio at his own game, bringing the speed to combine with a series of deft flicks to fashion a lovely 1-on-1 chance, but Fabrizio again somehow managed to keep the shot out with a combination of rod and post. Eliot grabbed a good hold of the game after this, Fabrizio seemingly happy to defend as well as we know he can. Soon his ‘keeper was in action again with what was quite honestly (and Eliot will certainly attest) an astounding save. With no further action, the game came to an end with Fabrizio taking the honours of contender for game of the season 3-1. Matt, Gordy and Steve were left to roll their tongues up and put their eyes back in their sockets after a fabulous display of finesse and elegance.
(reports by Steve Diasinos)
Dom 0 – Daniele 5
Imojjen 0 – Daniele 5
Daniele 2 – Steve Dettre 2
Steve Dettre 3 – Æowyn 0
Adrian 0 – Raffaele 4
Raffaele 2 – Adam 0
Raffaele 1 – Steve Dettre 2
Gordy 1 – Todd 0
Adam 0 – Mat 1
Fabrizio 4 – Steve Diasinos 0
Steve Diasinos 0 – Eliot 5
Eliot 1 – Fabrizio 3
And so Eliot Kennedy retains his title, though he had a much sterner fight this season. With Fabrizio remaining the tournament’s only undefeated player and beating Eliot in the final game to get within a solitary point of him, and Raffaele and Steve close behind them, the competition at the top looks like it is opening up. Meanwhile, a range of newer players further down the table have been learning from the best and will hope to put these lessons into action. Of course, everyone finished the tournament with their own ‘What Could Have Been’ and ‘If Only’ tales, but such is the nature of league competition, which is while we’ll all be back to give it another go next year.
to see the full tournament results, click here.