Thinkers display true grit


Damian, 16 May 2005


A wet night in mid-May and PFFC entered their penultimate match in the league hoping to get the win that would guarantee survival for the season. The omens weren’t good: 4 games in 8 days, and players could be forgiven for feeling tired. Also, we were going to have to start with 10 men – Filippo promised to arrive as soon as he had finished writing a thorough piece on Djibril Cisse. This left Mauro on his own up front, but there were no subs for tiring legs in the second half.

The match got off to a tetchy start, both teams looking a bit weary and not really creating much. A few half-chances followed, and then midway through the first half, a ricochet provided Ally with a shooting opportunity inside the area, which the goalkeeper saved. Moments later, MPG formed a slick counter-attack with the two strikers hooking up to send the ball past Owen: 1-0 to MPG.

Finally Filippo arrived and came on as a striker. Another counter attack from the opponents resulted in Owen coming out of goal and making a great tackle to stop a repeat of the first goal. MPG certainly had the best of the rest of the first half, but were mainly reduced to long-range efforts by our defence: Ronan, Vipul and Steffen all broke up and stopped attacks.

When the second half kicked off, PFFC lifted their game. Some wonderful one-touch football between Marco, Kieran, Vito, Mauro and Ally resulted in our captain crossing the ball in for Filippo, whose header ‘unluckily’ failed to bring us back into the game by a matter of inches. Moments later, an almost identical move saw Ally cross to the back post; this time Filippo just failed to get the touch needed to send the ball into the net.

PFFC were playing possibly their best football of the season with some excellent flowing attacks – the passing and movement of our midfielders and forwards was of top quality. We were beginning to win more of the 50/50 balls and headers, and it looked like the game was changing. The opponents, however, showed how good they also were with some fine one touch moves – and Owen was making tricky saves look straightforward on a difficult, skiddy surface.

After another fine move, MPG extended their lead through their centre forward toe-ending a cross into the goal. Yet again the Reds found themselves 2-0 down. It could have been all over, but with less than 10 minutes remaining, we were still winning battles in midfield and still putting fast-flowing moves together. A switch by the Gaffer – play three in defence, move Ronan to left midfield and push Vito up front – paid off immediately. Within seconds, some great play let Marco in to tuck the ball into the net beyond the oncoming keeper: 2-1.

It was one-way traffic from now on, and MPG were rattled – rushing passes, shooting from increasingly distant positions and arguing amongst themselves – as PFFC continually surged forward.

Finally, after yet another fine attack, Mauro slid the ball through for Ally, who placed the ball into the corner of the goal. PFFC were level: 2-2.

With 3 minutes left MPG looked distraught. One final long free kick from Damian into the box had Mauro and Vito trying desperately to get a third, but the ball went out for a goal kick.

Full time arrived and the smiles and jubilation of the Philosophy players contrasted with the silence and – I’m almost certain – tears of the opposition. It was an incredible game between two teams who played some wonderful football at times; MPG is possibly the best team we’ve faced this season. And proof, if proof were needed, that we can hold our own against the very best in this division.