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Bath vs …Bath!? : a fixture and a result you would not expect!

Yes, you read that right. This Sunday, the University of Bath played against itself in a futsal game in the Founder’s Hall. More specifically the university’s men’s Firsts had a game against the Seconds. And this wasn’t any regular friendly, but a competitive fixture part of the BUCS Western Tier 1 Futsal League. Surprisingly, the second team overcame the first with a blitzing and thunderous performance to grab a 6-1 win. 

Bath 2 piled the pressure on Bath 1 late into the first half with three goals in three minutes, almost leaving the first team shaken to a point of no return by half-time, and, despite a promising display in the latter twenty minutes which resulted in a consolation goal, Bath 2 showed no signs of slowing down and doubled up on their first half performance with three more goals to seal the 6-1 scoreline.

In the build-up, both sides had played two fixtures as part of the regular season with Bath 1 remaining unbeaten in their games against the Plymouth first team and Bristol second team, with a win and a draw respectively, whereas Bath 2 secured a victory over Bristol 2, however, they lost their match at home to the Swansea first team.

But those lost points didn’t seem to bother Bath 2’s energy as they arrived for the fixture on Sunday. They were already at a disadvantage before kick-off as their squad had two fewer players compared to Bath 1, a crucial factor in the fast squad-rotating nature of a futsal game. However, team captain, Damji played a spectacular role as the leader, almost playing the role of both player and manager, delivering an outstanding performance from both on the court and on the sidelines. 

Notably, Bath 1, had arrived much earlier to warm up and prepare for the game as compared to Bath 2, who had a rushed and unfocused warm-up routine. However, there was a very evident spark and confidence in the second team which they displayed throughout the game, which the first team lacked and suffered for as seen in the final result.

First Half

Bath 1 started the first half with a significant show of poise and control, patiently maintaining the ball in midfield and looking for an opening in Bath 2’s diamond formation. Bath 2 kept a straightforward counter-attacking plan and often created daring opportunities for themselves, which was quite effective in fazing Bath 1’s defences early on. Bath 1 showed great positioning in play and found themselves some great scoring opportunities too, however poor coordination in passing near the opposition box and finishing the job made them rue those missed chances.

This prompted the coach to call the first time-out of the game in the 14th minute, and Bath 1 returned to the pitch hoping to find a breakthrough in the 2’s unbreakable positioning. However, Bath 2 stuck with their plan and inadvertently ended up putting pressure on Bath 1 through sheer intensity and disciplined positioning. 

After winning possession in their half in the 16th minute, Bath 2 broke on the counter, displaying some quick and sharp passing. Taylor of Bath 2 lightly kicked the ball into the bottom-right corner of the net to give them a surprising lead over the first team.

Bath 2 then built up on that first strike and piled further pressure onto Bath 1, and in the very next minute, skipper Damji launched a thunderous strike from the halfway line with his left foot, which slotted perfectly well into the top left corner to make it a 2-0 lead for Bath 2. 

Still hungry for the win, they gave Bath 1 no time to recuperate. Just before half-time, Damji launched a brilliant grounded cross from the left side of the court, rolling past the 1’s defence completely to find Taylor once again, who produced a fabulous backheel flick, bringing the much-needed flair that defines futsal to establish a commanding 3-0 lead at the halfway point.

Second half

In the latter half of the game, Bath 1 couldn’t afford any further mistakes and approached the second half with more aggression. Bath 2 continued sticking to their game plan, and in just the 2nd minute of the half, Damji initiated some strong pressure in midfield to win possession for Bath 2 and made a clean, open pass to Sykala, who casually slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the goal to further the lead for Bath 2 to 4-0.

Bath 1, however, showed no signs of giving up. They were seen more around the opposition box and truly began to test Bath 2’s No.1, Gillespie. In the 4th and 5th minute of this half, Bath 1 created a flurry of opportunities: Bath 1’s Shepard took the ball cleanly off Damji in the 2’s half and shot instantly, only to be stopped by an impressive sweeper save from Gillespie. In this deflection, he attempted another go at goal, only to be blocked by Sykala, 

Since the pressure was too high, the attack from Bath 1 eventually prevailed. After attempting a roulette pass to his teammate whilst being pressed by multiple defenders, the ball ended back at Shepard’s feet amid the confusion and he skidded his right foot to smash it in the net, pulling one back for the first team and making the score 4-1. 

Bath 1 started building their confidence but Bath 2 were still maintaining that pressure and in the 7th minute added another goal to the scoresheet from a grounded corner from the right taken by Rai to find Taylor once more. Taylor struck it from outside the box and the ball deflected off of the back of Shepard’s leg, disorienting the keeper and tucking into the bottom-left corner of the goal to complete his hat-trick and make it 5-1.

The game was all but over at this point, but Bath 1 was determined to reduce the deficit at the very least and kept on pushing. However, the 2’s impressive pressure play showed no signs of slowing down, and with some impressive heroics from Gillespie in goal and incredible blocking by Taylor in defence, Bath 1 had no opportunity to add another goal to the scoresheet. Bath 1 called another timeout in the 11th minute to do some team rotation, where notably Damji was once again showing his ferocious leadership ability, roaring his team on and delivering the game plan with utmost passion and courage. 

As play resumed, Bath 1 was noticeably waiting for the game to end. In the 13th minute, Damji once more attempted a long-range kick. The ball was easily picked up by the keeper, who threw it right back into play, not noticing Sykala who received the ball straight from the keeper, angling it towards Taylor on his right who controlled the ball and played it back to him for a simple finish into the bottom corner to finally make it 6-1 for Bath 2.

Bath 2 now knew it was game over. Despite another few attempts at goal from both sides, the remaining minutes of the game were played with caution, with a timeout being called a minute from full time to cool down! The score remained 6-1 up until the final whistle, securing this massive win for Bath 2.

Match details:

Bath 1:- (Goals *)

Squad- R. Gwilt, B. Frewin, F. O’Riordan, J. Thompson, D. Sousa, M. Connolly, J. McGregor, O. Parsons, H. Shepard*, A. Sandhu 

Shots (On target)- 29 (16) 

Bath 2:- (Goals *)

Squad- J. Gillespie, B. Ward, S. Tomlinson, A. Franklin, A. Rai, T. Taylor***, D. Sykala**, S. Damji*

Shots (On target)- 33 (21)

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