Thursday, 18 August 2011

ULFC Crowned Football Beyond Borders: London 2011 Champions

Football Beyond Borders: London 2011 finished with co-hosts SOAS and the University of London playing out a 0-0 draw after extra time, with ULFC eventually triumphing 5-4 on penalties.

The match itself was a typicallly tense and physical English cup final, with both sides defending strongly and attacking unconvincingly. To be fair to the English representatives, both teams were understrength, and coming in from a very tough week of football, on a very warm July afternoon at Wadham Lodge, in East London.

For their part, ULFC had only eleven men, and winger Reed Cataldo was carrying a knock so severe that for the full 120 minutes he was acting only as applied pressure to SOAS' defence, and as a 'wall' to play passes against. Cataldo worked tirelessly throughout though, and it was the absence of key creative midfielder Chris Michael which really hindered them, as they struggled to play it through midfield, resorting to long-ball tactics and staying compact in defence. It was a style of play which ULFC had used previously against PaysandĂș, and in periods against the AUC. Although it was criticised by many as being a negative tactic, it showed the strength of the ULFC players, who all season have been playing free-flowing attacking football under head coach Andy Zeller. With Zeller away throughout the tournament, and with key players missing, they instead put a truly English performance on display for the visiting teams in attendance!

SOAS, in contrast, stuck to their attractive style of play and passed the ball around their midfield and defence extensively, dominating possession and keeping the ball well. However, without key forwards Toib Olomowewe and Juan Dorrego, they were somewhat blunt in the final third, and with ULFC's compact defensive shape they struggled to create real openings.

However SOAS it was who cam closest to opening the scoring, as an opening created on the left by Kain and Watfa left Alex Skinner with time to shoot just inside the penalty box, but his firm strike was beaten away by Bailey. The next chance fell to Omar Salha, as the ball fell to him in the box after a cross from Omacar was not cleared properly. He volleyed well into the ground, but the deflected shot was scrambled away by Bailey, low down to his left.

The second-half saw less clear chances created, but with Theo Ohene getting on the ball more for ULFC, the threat of a breakaway goal was always present. However SOAS centre-backs Alex Kaszyicki-Williams, and in particular former ULFC player Erhan Sancak, defended superbly to keep the threat at bay.

The threat of Ohene and Chapman continued into extra time, but it was SOAS who almost snatched the game-winning moment, as in the dying minutes Taurean Antoine-Chagar found space on the left-hand side of the box, and with ULFC defenders Shane Gaughan and Owain Tomblin (who were both superb throughout) fearful of giving away a penalty, Antoine-Chagar was able to chip the ball goalwards, only to be denied what would have been a stunning victory goal by a fingertip save from Bailey, which took it onto the crossbar.

With both 90 minutes and extra time unable to separate the teams, it came down to a penalty shoot-out.

ULFC captain Owain Tomblin stepped up first and fired home confidently, before Jasper Kain's penalty sneaked and bobbled it's way past co-organiser Sam Bailey (much to the annoyance of the ULFC goalkeeper) to make it 1-1. Rob Walls stepped up for ULFC, and confidently sent SOAS keeper Emmanuel Boateng the wrong way to give ULFC a 2-1 lead. Jack Reynolds' penalty was unconvincing, with Bailey again getting a hand on it, but his tactic of going down the middle paid off to make it equal after two penalties each.

A confident penalty from Theo Ohene kept the pressure on for SOAS, who's captain Joseph Watfa then stepped up for the third penalty, but Bailey guessed right for the third time and this time managed to keep it out, to give ULFC the edge. Another good penalty from Shane Gaughan maintained ULFC's advantage, and though Timothy Omacar sent Bailey the wrong way with a well-placed finish, the younger Gaughan brother Chris again sent Boateng the wrong way with an assured penalty, to give ULFC the victory. SOAS won't be too dissapointed though, as the five games they played won them many admirers, and will serve as a great warm-up for the players going out to the Middle East this September.

Although an all-English final was not the expected (or particularly wanted) result of an epic week of football, both ULFC and SOAS deserved their place in the final, with both teams winning crucial final fixtures on Tuesday 26th and Thursday 28th July.

On Tuesday 26th, SOAS overcame PaysandĂș 3-2 in an exciting end-to-end game, with Timesh Pillay scoring twice to seal the victory. Meanwhile ULFC beat Egyptian visitors AUC 2-0 in an vital and very hotly-contested game, and Adnan Menderes beat Helsinki 4-3 to grab their first points of the tournament.

On Thursday 28th, the early kick-off saw Helsinki and PaysandĂș play out a great game of football, with the well-tempered 4-4 draw not only showcasing great attacking football, but also truly displaying the spirit of Football Beyond Borders. SOAS then recorded a second 3-2 victory in two days, this time against the AUC, whilst ULFC saw off Adnan Menderes 3-0 in the day's final game.The last two day's results meant that no team left without a result to their name, which was a nice touch to round-off the group stages of the tournament.

The Football Beyond Borders Fair Play Award, awarded to the team who played the game and participated in the project in the best spirit, was given to the University of Helsinki, who made plenty of new friends with their sporting attitude, their disciplined and spirited performances, and their enthusiasm and well-mannered natures throughout their time here.

We would like to thank all of the teams who participated, for making the tournament such a resounding success, and also such an enjoyable event to run, and also all those who came down to support the teams down at The Hive or at Wadham Lodge. We hope to see you all again at future Football Beyond Borders events!


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