1st October 2022: New players, new team, new season. What a performance!
An error on the sheet as the armband was awarded to Bert Stanley. Jess Ebhodaghe comes in for her first competitive Aztecs start, facing her former team.
The Aztecs were pleased to announce the formation of a reserve team over the summer. The squad was a little light for the first game of the season, owing to a few injuries in the team. League rules allow for one registered first team player to play in the reserves per match, and for this game it was Rebecca Moody. The intention with this team is to prepare and incubate players for first team futsal. With local futsal not currently an option within the English futsal landscape it's either twelve hour days travelling the country to compete, or no futsal at all. With the interest we've had in Southampton, we knew we'd have enough for two teams.
Players can move between teams, but as mentioned, it's only one first team player per reserve squad. And a player can only play a maximum of four matches for the other team. Upon the fifth game, their registration switches, and they can only play for that team for the rest of the season. To be eligible for the Tier One playoffs, a player must have played in a minimum of five fixtures for the first team. The ability to sign players runs until the end of March. So if you'd like to get involved in futsal, we have space for a couple more.
We want the reserve team to be competitive in its own right, while also ensuring the strength of the first team. There is a lot of depth within the squad, and three solid goalkeepers, which is a rarity and a blessing. First up is London Genesis, the only team that are willing to travel down to Southampton for a friendly (apart from Reading, but that's hardly as demanding as some of the other teams).
Let's get to the action! Genesis struck first with only seconds played. Stealing the ball and launching the counter, the Genesis 7 was through 1v1 against Stanley, who came out fast and big to make a good save. Unfortunately the ball bounced straight back to the Genesis 7 who did incredibly well to lob Stanley, as the ball floated agonisingly close over the head of the recovering Moody and into the net.
The Aztecs replied swiftly to level the game at 1-1. Walker, Moody, and Sumner combined from a corner, then Moody used a sublime piece of skill to sidestep the defender, and fire home for her first of the game. a Move very similar to one used by Rebekah Tonks against Genesis last season.
As the Aztecs began to wake up and grab hold of the game, Elizabeth Stanley was called upon to make a great reaction save. A Genesis kick-in that wasn't cleared, fell to the number 7, who reacted quickest to get a shot away, which was heading for the top corner, if not for the hand of Stanley. Stanley was called upon again moments later, coming up strong in a 1v1 from a breakaway.
Southampton had a breakaway of their own. Moody stole the ball and surged forward, 2v1 with the defender. She played in Jess Ebhodaghe, who shot high, and just over the bar against her former team. The next chance fell to Ebhodaghe again, stealing the ball, and again sending the ball over the goal.
Then came the Paul Gascoigne tribute. Think of that famous goal against Scotland in Euro 96. Hannah Walker kept the ball in play well, and sent it back to Maidment. Maidment's scoop played in Moody, who flicked the ball over the defender with the right foot, and then volleyed it past the keeper. 2-1, and a goal of the season contender.
Genesis nearly levelled the score. Stanley solved her own problem. After giving the ball away, she dug herself out of a hole, making a great save in a 1v1. The next Aztecs chance fell to Amy Maidment, who had an excellent game, but could not score for love nor money. Set up by Walker, her left-footed shot came crashing back off the post.
The Aztecs extended the lead to 3-1. Defending deep, Maidment won the ball. Genesis had overcommitted, and Sumner saw the gap. Maidment played her through, and Sumner just got to the ball before the Genesis keeper, directing it past her and into the net. Stanley had a go herself, but the effort was tipped over the bar. Sumner had another attempt, a chipped in ball from Stanley which was knocked down by the defender, and volleyed at the goal, which was parried away by the keeper. Ebhodaghe had another shot, receiving the ball from Moody, turning the defender. The shot was on target this time, but saved by the keeper.
Just before the break, Maidment came close again, but shot over. The Aztecs defence then had a moment of panic before half-time. Stanley up high was caught in possession, and did very well with the block to prevent a shot into the empty net. By the time Genesis had their second shot, Moody had recovered twenty metres to the goal line, and stopped the shot from going in. 3-1 at the half.
Southampton struck first in the second half, as Ebhodaghe finally got her goal. 4-1. Stanley's long throw was brought down well by Moody on the edge of the Genesis D. She turned and cannoned a shot off the crossbar, which bounced down for Ebhodaghe to get the tap-in. Maidment came close to making it five. Brought down following a mazy dribble, she took the free-kick herself, aiming for the far top corner, missing it by an inch.
And then again! How has Maidment not scored a hat-trick? A long throw from Stanley, Maidment flicked it on towards the goal with a backwards header, which the keeper tipped over the bar. Stanley also had a shot tipped over the bar. Fed a ball from a corner, she shot from halfway. Hannah Walker was interfering with the keeper's line of sight, but the keeper was still able to tip it over the bar. Moments later, Stanley had work to do at the other end, coming up big to block a shot from close range. Another chance followed, but Stanley was equal to it, making a great diving save to her left.
Genesis were coming, and the second goal arrived. Sumner robbed of the ball, the Genesis 9 broke away, moved past Maidment, and shot into the corner beyond Stanley, making it 4-2. Moody nearly re-established the three goal lead, coming close with a free-kick after another foul on Maidment. The next one would count, though. Maidment's dribbling drew another foul. Moody stepped up, similar to how she did against Worcester, and blasted it into the net for 5-2.
Southampton still on the offensive could have made it six. Sumner and Ebhodaghe getting two shots away each in a goalmouth scramble. But it was Genesis that scored next. A kick-in in their own half, and a one-two saw the taker receive the ball wide, and play a great cross to be tapped in at the far post, for a really well worked move, making it 5-3.
The Aztecs responded quickly, through Hannah Walker, making it 6-3. Maidment with some great dribbling, unleashed a shot which hit Walker. The ball dropped to the ground, Walker reacted quickly, and spun around to shoot past the keeper. Moody nearly scored again, winning the ball in the Aztecs D and carrying it all the way to the other D, before having her shot saved. Stanley had a shot from the resulting corner, getting higher, and closer to scoring
Southampton weren't done, and wanted more goals. Walker and Sumner both came close to scoring their second. Then it was Moody who made it 7-3, scoring her third of the game. She cut out a throw from the keeper, dribbled forward, and hit a left-footed shot past the keeper. Two goals each for either foot. The balance didn't last long, as Moody scored another right-footed goal, her fifth goal of the game, to make it 8-3. Walker prevented the attack and poked the ball to Moody, who ran down the right wing and shot past the keeper from the tightest of angles, similar to one of Roberto Carlos' most famous goals.
The ninth and final goal followed a recurring theme. Maidment on the dribble, brought down, but the advantage was played as the ball fell to Walker. Walker cut inside and shot past the keeper from close range. A great individual and team performance.
A great team performance with lots to be happy about. One of the main takeaways was the effort and determination shown, even in the final few minutes of the game, when there was already a wide margin in the score. The team were relentless, and it would be common to see several bodies defending the goal like their lives depended on it. This team spirit was key to our success last season, and will be a key component again this season.
Missing the end of last season due to injury, Amy Maidment made sure she was still a key member of the squad, and her encouragement and team spirit from the sidelines in those crucial playoff games were a massive contributor to the team getting the results to avoid relegation. Short on preparation and missing chunks of pre-season, this was her first competitive game since last spring. Amy was a warrior today and created so many scoring opportunities with her skill and tenacity. She was worth a couple goals, but it felt like the universe was conspiring against her.
Watch the highlights back here.
View the whole match below.
The scores from the day of games.
Bedford P v P Reading Royals
Southampton Aztecs Reserves 9 v 3 London Genesis
Stevenage 22 v 0 Cambridge
With the great work that the league are doing, and the excellent people within the clubs up and down the country, it's great to see that we're starting to have an effect, and hopefully being a force for good in the world. We know we have fans that tune in to watch from around the world, as well as a few that make appearances in person. We really want futsal to grow and become a more prominent sport in England, and we really want there to be more opportunities for female players to play and compete. Thanks for coming to see us, thanks for watching our games, thanks for checking us out on social media, and thanks for buying merchandise.
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