Score: 3 - 3
Goals: Salmon 2, Masinde
Match report by Joaquin Rodriguez San Pedro
Saturday morning: Slowly I open by bleary eyes after a night of relatively heavy drinking just to look outside and... damn it! It's absolutely pissing down! The prospect of playing football in the cold rain forebodes wet boots, cold chests and muddy shirts. I draw strength from my passion for the game and after a short breakfast I flee the house in direction to the grounds.
Luckily I’m not hung-over otherwise Harry would sit me on the bench in less time that it takes my flat mate to down his first stubbie. I arrive halfway through the reserves game to find Julio, Joe, Chris and some ladies huddled up under a single umbrella watching the football. The reserves are trashing the other team, Miles, Johnny and Richard get on the score sheet. The dark, rainy afternoon seems to have brightened the spirits of the Monash players.
Half an hour later it's our time to enter the change rooms. The warm up is painful, it's the moment when you walk out to the cold rain and the wind with nothing but a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, whilst your body feels ridiculously cold and unprepared. Fifteen long minutes later we're already soaked but strangely enough, we've warmed up.
Back in the dressing room, Harry gives the line up and starts his usual bantering: "This is what it's all about!", keep it simple!. “If you get a sniff of the box, take a shot!” The inspirational rant goes on for another 15 minutes with a fair few football clichés interspersed in between. Finally, we get our last orders and we run off onto the pitch again.
After a short, last-minute warm up, we gather together as a team. Tomo lifts our spirits and Julio gives the last bits of advice. A few wet minutes pass and the game finally starts. We dominate the first 15 minutes. The team seems to be concentrating and playing quite well. The opposition's defense doesn't seem to be very solid and we are already finding a few gaps on the flanks and in the centre.
20 minutes into the game we face our first setback - we give away a soft free kick in front of the box and the resulting shot evades the wall and pierces the back of the net. We’ve come from a goal behind before and we were playing better so we regain composure and restart the game. Five tense minutes follow, and, before we can recover, a dangerous back pass and a slip of one of our defenders costs us another goal. By now our structure and confidence as a team has suffered but we still believe we are in the game. 5 minutes later we are punished for slack defending and one of their players is sent free on the keeper to pounce the third for them. It’s starting to look like a very dark afternoon for Monash after all.
Still in shock but by no means defeated we start pouring forward when, only a few minutes before half time, our comeback receives a deadly and maybe final blow. Hector gets a straight red card for seemingly swearing at the referee. It’s all one big misunderstanding but nothing can be done, the card has been shown and Hector must abandon the pitch. The first half finishes in dejection and anger, 3 - nil down with 10 men, we trudge, we run, we sprint to the change rooms.
A general feeling of anger and frustration fills the air; we’re frustrated that the opposition, who we deem to be not as good as us, could score 3 goals when we are down to ten men. Some of the senior players, like Tomo, show their anger at the interim result and try to inspire a comeback. Harry and Rik avoid a general lashing out and try to motivate us. Harry makes two substitutions - Robbie and Liam come in - and encourages the whole team to give all we've got out there, since, to this thinking, we were still in the game. Those are the words each of us is trying to believe in as we run back to the pitch, “we’re still in the game”.
Although enduring a nervy restart to the second half, after about 5 minutes we’ve already put them on the back foot and they are folding under pressure. About 15 minutes into the second half Liam makes a dash down the right wing (what the hell was he doing there?!) and puts the ball in the box. It seems to elude every defender and Tony materialises from nowhere like a shadow to head it down past the goalie. It’s 1 – 3 and we’re back in the game!
We keep up the pressure and they start showing signs of nervousness and a general lack of confidence. Their manager is telling off their players and they’ve lost their game plan. We don’t relent and in a chaotic play we manage to score again. Ariel picks up a loose ball in the box and suddenly we're 2 - 3 down. We've become dangerous and they know it..
The game becomes very physical, a few hard tackles and a few nasty ones fly either way. I’m tackled from behind when I’ve already passed the ball, Julio receives constant attention and Tony winds up on the receiving end of a bad late tackle that goes unpunished. However, their players also get their fair share of ill-treatment. Ariel manages to kick every single defender (plus the keeper) without getting booked or even being admonished. Bax sticks one of his trademark 5 feet long legs past a couple of shins, whilst Tomo and Chris let their wingers know that the only way through them is without the ball. The referee starts to lose control of the game as the intensity increases but we're still 100% focused, and we’re not about to let it go.
A swift combination between our midfielders ends up with Ariel picking up the ball in the box again and, after fending off a defender, he guides the ball into the back of the net! In the mayhem of the celebration we all run towards him and slide on the moist Clayton turf. We are back in level terms! By now they've realised the game is definitely slipping out of their grasp, but they actually have 11 players while we have 10 so they come at us throwing everything they have left in the tank. It seems there might be a siege on its way but we hold on, we run our bollocks off covering every space, entering every 50 - 50 ball like it was the last one in the game and winning every single one of them (or at least letting a stray leg know we were there).
In the last minute of normal time they have a goal correctly (it must be said) disallowed for offside and we sigh in relief at such a narrow escape. Suddenly Liam receives a long ball down the wing! 3 vs 1! Robbie, Liam and Ariel against one defender, he tries to block Liam’s way to the goal but he cuts a square ball to Ariel who shoots and yes! It's in!!!! But no... it wasn’t to be, the linesman flag is up and it's offside. But how!? It was a square ball! Once again, nothing can be done... The memory of the other disallowed goal props back into my mind, there’s only so much you can ask of these referees...
The game ends in a 3 all draw, a glorious result given the uphill task we had to face. Despite the gain of only a solitary point from the match, we are happy with our effort and we almost end up celebrating in the dressing rooms as if we had won. A great comeback for Monash University that will hopefully inspire us to conquer any team we face for the rest of the season.