Fireraiders – 3, Los Blazeros – 1
Wellington College, June 24 2018
Fireraiders put the heat on at the right times to win their Wellington Sunday Football League Division Two clash against Los Blazeros by three goals to one.
Both teams took their time to build up steam, with the early stages of the game played largely in the centre third of the Wellington College pitch. The first real chance went to Los Blazeros as Sam Mackay-Wright showed lively footwork and intelligent playmaking to make a foray into the goal area and connect with teammates. The attack looked dangerous but was shut down at the last moment by Fireraiders’ keeper George Grover.
At the other end of the pitch, Yousuf Hassen regularly troubled Blazeros’ defence. Fireraiders searched for him with the long ball on several occasions as his speed enabled him to get to the ball before the defenders in the swirling Wellington wind.
The strategy paid off on the 30-minute mark as Hassen controlled a looping long ball to dash into the penalty area and dart a shot past Blazeros keeper Matthew Bentley, bringing the score to 1-0.
The lead was short-lived, however. Blazeros’ Sammy Sack pounced on a mistimed shot from a teammate which ricocheted to him at the edge of the box. Although Sack’s shot initially seemed to be wide of the goal, it was well hit, and a strong gust of wind took the ball just inside the right-hand upright to level the score at 1-1.
Los Blazeros looked much more comfortable after the goal, finishing the half with solid defence, electric passing and several scoring opportunities, including a header just feet from the goal which required a sharp save from Grover to halt.
Fireraiders regained composure at the start of the second half, and Hassen continued to harass the defence with pace and footwork as captain Tom Parkes launched an aerial assault. The pair combined on the left wing, with Hassen occupying three defenders, then looping a cross to Will Morrow, who headed the ball over the keeper to take the score to 2-1.
The swirling wind made defending the aerial ball perilous, and Parkes lofted high ball after high ball into the penalty area, resulting in a sequence of threatening corner kicks. Opportunities came thick and fast, but Bentley had found his form and made save after save.
As the rain came in and the wind died off, Fireraiders switched strategy again, falling back into a defensive formation. A change of keeper nearly cost them dearly as the substitute placed the ball on the ground, then picked it up again, resulting in a dangerous indirect free kick at close quarters that failed to find its way into the goal.
Blazeros went all out on attack but could not pass the wall of defenders. The technical skills of Mackay-Wright lost some of their impact on the slippery ground, and attacks on the wings were repelled before they could threaten the goal. While the latter stages of the game largely played out in Fireraiders defensive third, Blazeros could not equalise as defenders smothered the ball.
With nine Fireraiders players effectively playing defence, Hassen was left to handle the attack on his own. Every clearance seemed to land at his feet, and he often retained the ball for long enough to launch counterattacking opportunities. With Blazeros committing more and more players to all-out attack, this long ball strategy found reward once more, and Hassen found his way through a diminished defence to bring the final score to 3-1.
“It felt really good out there – we usually don’t play that way, but it worked for us”, said Hassen. Parkes agreed, saying the absence of star playmaker Kane Hosie that week had forced the team to change its style and focus on defence and strategic counterattacks.
Los Blazeros captain Henry Peach said the game had been “a good game, and a fair one.”
In other Division Two as action, V-Well were ejected from top spot, dropping to second on the table after an 8-2 drubbing from former Division One team HHH United. Valley FC Trust claimed first place after a massive 6-1 win over Marauders FC, while Zazaspor dropped to third after drawing with Four Four Two.
In Division One, Sudakas FC held top spot, grinding out its fourth draw of the season against Lazy 11. North Wellington held second place with a narrow victory over Lokomotiv Beer Quarter. Sunday Blazers edged out Universal Language 2-0, while Tuskan Raiders won by default over Levuka FC.
Division Three is becoming a close-fought contest, with Westwood United gaining ascendancy over Ball Tamperers on goal difference following a 7-4 victory over Shamrocks. Expected Toulouse have continued to play energetic football in Division Three, beating Rogue X1 4-3, while Terrace-Nadi beat Universe 1-0.
Wellington Chinese United beat Unipods 5-6 in a Division Four goalfest at Ascot Park, while SVH comfortably held top spot after a 6-0 victory over Porirua Battlers FC. Trentham United FC also had a strong week, beating Sunday Cardigans 4-1.
Thirty-six teams are competing in this year’s Wellington Sunday Football League, a community based 11-a-side league that was founded over 40 years ago and is growing year-on-year. A full table of results and fixtures can be found at https://tinyurl.com/WSFL2018.
Categories: Wellington Sunday Football League
I alternate between club, indoor and street football. I'm keen on the social game and have been known to bother urban Wellington by playing street football at night. I usually play keeper or wing back, and I'm enough of a geek to enjoy football manager games.