12th March 2022: Southampton succumb to the quality of the champions.
Nearly a full English line-up for the side lead by captain Lauren Sayler. Divina Alo Ilolo was missing due to prepping for surgery, and both Kath Heath and Molly Sumner were unable to make the trip. The Aztecs went in with eight to face the undefeated champions, with Amy Maidment and Laura Ingram making their second competitive Aztecs appearance. Of the side present for the inaugural game, finishing in a 15-2 victory for Helvecia all those months ago, only five appeared in the Aztecs squad for the rematch; Sayler, Curtis, Moody, and both Tonks.
Confidence was high going into this game. The team had learned and improved so much since the beginning of the season, suffering mercilessly at the hands of Helvecia. The 15-2 drubbing didn't deter Southampton, but instead spurred them on. We saw what the level was, and it inspired us. We wanted to be part of this group of teams, and to compete at the top.
Obviously Southampton went into the game as massive underdogs. Who doesn't when they face this team? However, the Aztecs now knew they had ways to hurt Helvecia. Skills, tactics, understanding, match preparation, futsal fitness had improved. Just how much of that gap had been closed? Previously, it had felt almost as if London Helvecia had scored at will, and were impenetrable at the back, aside from two short lapses in concentration. Was this still to be the case?
Helvecia's first real scoring chance of the game came just ninety seconds into the match. A layoff from Buyukgiray to Gurr for the shot was palmed away by Sayler, and the rebound cleared by Moody. Fifteen seconds later and the ball was in the back of the net. Helvecia foiled a Southampton counter attack, Tune played to Buyukgiray, whose strength and experience showed as she rolled Kayleigh Tonks to tap into the net from close range.
This didn't deter Southampton. It never does. Bad starts are somewhat customary. Only a minute later, with Alicia Grimmond way out of her goal, Kayleigh Tonks intercepted a pass on the halfway line from Buyukgiray, with the goal wide open. Buyukgiray retreated to the net, and Grimmond raced back, catching up with K. Tonks, eventually putting her off for what was an under hit shot.
Helvecia's next big chance came from a Sayler pass to Moody which was stolen by Buyukgiray, and the shot then being well blocked by Nicola Curtis. Southampton had another fright moments later, when a misplaced kick-in from Moody was intercepted with Lauren Sayler way out of the goal, but fortunately the shot was blasted well over the bar. At this moment it felt like Southampton were inviting London Helvecia to score, as the following goal clearance was dropped to Curtis, whose pass was cut out by Tune, who laid off for Gurr, who sliced her shot wide.
Southampton then had a huge chance, when Ana Alvarez was uncharacteristically caught in possession. Kayleigh Tonks surged forward with the ball from the halfway line with just Grimmond to beat, who made herself big and deflected the ball away for a save. Southampton came forward again in search of the equaliser. R. Tonks fizzed an excellent diagonal to Ingram, whose shot was saved. Moody charged in for the rebound with the goal begging, Emma Tune seemingly did enough to force Moody's shot off target.
Seven minutes played and it was still only 1-0, with both teams having plenty of chances to add to the scoresheet. Southampton's next great chance fell to Laura Ingram wide of the D, following a pass from Moody. Ingram's pass to R. Tonks was blocked by Grimmond, but fell to Moody, whose shot was blocked by O'Shea protecting the goal. From the resulting corner, some sloppy passing allowed for O'Shea to take a shot from her own half at the open Aztecs goal, but thankfully the retreating Sayler was able to make a block with her knee.
Southampton's next chance came from a kick-in which was struck diagonally to the far post by R. Tonks. Grimmond dove forward to parry the ball away, taking it from K. Tonks, who surely would have scored. The ball fell to the feet of Buyukgiray on the edge of her own D, who set herself and tried her luck at shooting from distance. The retreating Sayler got her footing wrong, and allowed the low shot of Buyukgiray to sneak past her and into the goal. Southampton may have felt good for a goal at this point in time, but were now 2-0 down.
Nine minutes into the half, and Rebekah Tonks and Amy Maidment worked well to steal the ball and begin a counter attack together. As They approached the D, R. Tonks' passed to Maidment, whose shot was hit too softly, and allowed for Grimmond to make a comfortable save. Southampton came close again, their closest yet, just seconds later. Sayler rolled out to Ingram who played a pass inside to R. Tonks, whose round the corner pass to Maidment was cut out by O'Shea, but she mis-controlled the ball, allowing for Ingram to pounce and steal it. Charging forward with just Grimmond to beat, Ingram slotted it just past the onrushing keeper. The ball agonisingly came back out off the post, and was then gobbled up by Grimmond.
The Southampton goal was coming... surely? Any minute now! Four minutes would pass, and Curtis would force another save from Grimmond, after being setup by K. Tonks from a corner. But then London Helvecia went up the other end to add further distance between the teams and make it 3-0. Grimmond, after catching the shot from Curtis, rolled to Alvarez, who carried the ball diagonally in field and laid it off to Vilas Serin. She switched it to Buyukgiray, who then played a diagonal that somehow squeezed through both Curtis and Broughton, finding Castro Chaudarcas to finish from close range.
Helvecia should have made it four when three players broke forward against just Amy Maidment, who did very well to delay the attack, but ultimately it was poor finishing from the London side, failing to capitalise. And then it was four. A gift, following a poorly struck kick-in from Broughton, intended for a switch of play to Sayler. Intercepted by Buyukgiray, and only the frame of Nicola Curtis obscuring the net, it was an easy finish from close range. Helvecia were on the ascendency and looking for the fifth, as Southampton appeared to be in disarray during these few minutes. Great defending from Laura Ingram cut out a pass which would have lead to a certain goal for Vilas Serin at the far post. Sayler gathered the ball and sent K. Tonks off on a counter attack. Closed down by Tune, she played the ball into Moody, who shot wide when faced with the onrushing Grimmond who came flying out to narrow the angle.
Southampton hit the post again. Ingram once again cuts out the pass, Sayler again starting a counter with a throw, which reaches Moody, who lays off R. Tonks, who pays in her sister Kayleigh, with just Grimmond to beat. The shot hit the far post, and Moody was closed down on the rebound. Rebekah Tonks then caused Helvecia more trouble, which a throw from Sayler caused a mix-up at the back. R. Tonks tried to lift the bouncing ball over Grimmond, while under pressure from Vilas Serin. Tune recovered and easily dealt with the loose ball. With a minute remaining before the half-time buzzer, Sayler carried the ball forward after receiving a kick-in from Moody. She played in K. Tonks who span well and found R. Tonks on the defender's blindside, but R. Tonks fluffed her shot and let Helvecia off the hook once again. The first half finished 4-0.
Feeling that there were definitely goals there for them, Southampton were encouraged by this first half performance. It was possible to get through this Helvecia team and create chances. The problem had been taking those chances. At the other end, at least two of the goals had been self-inflicted. 4-0 didn't seem insurmountable.
A change of keeper at half-time for Helvecia saw Tyrimos come on. Twenty seconds in, and she received the ball near the halfway line. She drove into space and hit a shot at Sayler which was comfrotably saved. Sayler released the ball to Kayleigh Tonks, who dribbled past Tyrimos, and slotted the ball into the goal as Tune came out to close her down. 4-1. Was this game on?
Just ninety seconds into the second half and Southampton had another big chance. The sisters combining well as they always do, creating a shot for Rebekah Tonks, which was saved centrally by Tyrimos. Banging on that door, two minutes into the half, K. Tonks touched a kick-in to Ingram, who squared it for Sayler, whose powerful shot sailed over the bar. Three minutes in and a hooked clearance from Moody was ran onto by R. Tonks, who hit a volley which appeared to be tipped wide by Tyrimos, although the referees awarded the ball to Helvecia. If the comeback was to happen, it would require this level of energy and chance creation.
Helvecia tested Sayler for the first time four minutes into the half. Excellent link-up play and clever disguise worked a shot for Gurr on the left, forcing Sayler to parry the ball wide for a corner. Southampton went forward again. Castro-Chaudarcas was tackled by Rebekah Tonks who dribbled past her and Buyukgiray, before firing a powerful shot wide of the near post.
Southampton nearly gifted London Helvecia another opportunity. Sayler dove to her right to make a save, and the ball fell to Maidment under no pressure, who played an ill-advised pass to a covered Kayleigh Tonks. Under pressure, Tonks passed it back to Maidment, and the two were closed down by Tune and Gurr. Tune stole the ball and used her strength to work a shot, which Sayler blocked from close range. Still on her feet, Sayler took the ball forward and played in Curtis, whose poke towards goal was saved by Tyrimos.
Eight minutes in, and the word "gift" was nearly used again. Sayler threw the ball out to R. Tonks, which was stolen by Buyukgiray. Her and Gurr went 2v1 against K. Tonks. The disguised pass came across to Gurr, who was closed down by Sayler to block the shot. Moments later, Helvecia would end all hopes of a Southampton revival, making it 5-1, with eleven minutes remaining. Tune had the ball in the centre circle, and passed out wide to Alvarez. Alvarez fired it across goal, appearing to get a deflection off Maidment to take it past Sayler.
Helvecia kept coming. Sayler caught a hard shot from Gurr. Broughton worked hard to track and block another shot. Despite the score and the opposition, Southampton kept going. If you can't win the game, you might as well treat the rest of it as an opportunity to improve. If you want to beat the best, you have to learn how to score against the best. Great skill and a nutmeg from Ingram got the ball to Sayler, out of her goal, wide right. She played a one-two with Broughton and hit a shot wide of the near post. While unleashing the shot, the referees judged Sayler to have been fouled by Tune. Moody and Ingram stepped up for the free-kick, a little further than six metres from the goal line, and just under two metres in from the touchline. The ball was squared to Sayler who hit a shot from distance, forcing Tyrimos to dive down to her left. The ball bounced to Broughton who failed to make a clean connection on the volley. Helvecia couldn't clear, and Moody took the ball. Intricate play followed with Ingram, Broughton, and R. Tonks getting involved, but the four of them could not work a shooting opportunity.
Southampton were awarded another free-kick, six metres out, just to the left of centre, when Rebekah Tonks was flattened. R. Tonks and Moody stood over the ball, Broughton executed a decoy screening run across the Helvecia players, but Moody's shot following R. Tonks' layoff was spooned wide.
Just five minutes remaining, and Helvecia made it 6-1 after another self-inflicted Southampton goal. The commentators were right when they said if Southampton are going to play fly-keeper so much, it's important the quality of the pass is better when in possession, or else it will force unnecessary turnovers leading to opposition chances with the goal unguarded. Moody's kick-in was scooped into the middle. Helvecia got the ball, Sayler retreated. Castro-Chaudarcas fed Gurr, who almost passed the ball past Sayler who was returning to her net.
Southampton still kept going forward. Rebekah Tonks forcing another save from Tyrimos. Perhaps it was this eagerness that lead to the 7th Helvecia goal. Yet the Aztecs were happy to go down swinging. Sayler made a save and began a keeper counter. Movement was slow, and the pass panicked. Castro-Chaudarcas picked up the ball after it ricocheted off Buyukgiray. She fed it back to Buyukgiray who, in space, turned, and squeezed it past Sayler to make it seven.
But this is a team who doesn't know how to quit. The never-say-die spirit of the Southampton Aztecs was on full display here. With only seconds remaining, Helvecia broke through and were three versus just Sayler and Maidment, who threw their bodies in the way during the ensuing goalmouth scramble. All this just to make sure a team already winning 7-1 didn't get to 8-1 There might still be a gap in quality between the two sides, but the Aztecs have fight, spirit, and desire in abundance.
There's no shame in losing to the champions. The team that have been setting the futsal standard nationally. It was important to work hard and make it a fight. The Aztecs have taken a lot of positives from the performance, and are looking forward to the remaining four games of the season.
In only her second start for the Aztecs, Laura Ingram was voted as player of the match. Ingram is a growing presence in the side, who can make strong contributions in both attack and defence.
Watch the highlights back here.
View the whole match below (game starts just after four hours and twenty minutes into the feed).
The scores from the day of games.
Bolton 2 v 6 Manchester
Birmingham WLV 10 v 1 Bloomsbury
London Helvecia 7 v 1 Southampton Aztecs
University of Liverpool 3 v 5 Worcester
Below is the table after the third game day. The Aztecs drop down to sixth place. We'll see you again on Saturday the 26th of March when we face Birmingham WLV in Wolverhampton! You can catch the game on BT Sport for an 11:15 kick off.
Enjoy photos from the game below!
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