Even the most crushing defeats start out 0-0. All square. Anyone’s game. In it to win it. And last night the Greys kicked off against second-placed St. Bids as equals, undefeated in three and convinced that an upset was on the cards. But it didn’t take long for that blissful cloud of naivety to burst, ruining a perfectly good Thursday night.
Things started out pretty evenly, with the ball bouncing from goal mouth to goal mouth, and the Greys actually came closest to scoring early on. Then something really bizarre happened.
St. Bids’ right winger turned Greys defender Julien near the corner flag. A clear foul. But before the Greys even had time to react a St. Bids player placed the ball on the edge of the box. He passed it to a teammate a few meters back from the penalty spot, who smashed the ball straight through Greys keeper Yusuf’s shell-shocked right hand. One nil. Keep playing. But the Greys were incensed.
According to the ref, direct free kicks can be taken anywhere as long as the player moves the ball backwards. But instead of taking their free kick out of the way towards the corner flag touchline, St. Bids moved it to a much more advantageous position on the edge of the box and caught the Greys unaware. According to the FA, “the free kick is taken from the place where the infringement occurred or from the position of the ball when the infringement occurred.” The organization also adds, “A direct free kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).”
Still licking their wounds, the Greys were slow to react to a quick long ball over the top. It found a St. Bids striker unmarked with time to pick his spot (and take a selfie). He struck his shot well from just outside the box, but Yusuf reacted and got into a good position to save it. The shot was too strong, though, and forced its way in. Two nil.
The Greys bounced back and Ollie and Adam both came close to scoring before half time. But St. Bids’ keeper did really well to keep them out; more David De Gea than Simon Mignolet.
The second half was torrid for the Greys – they couldn’t string a pass together and didn’t look like scoring at all. It didn’t take long for St. Bids to find some space and increase their lead. Then another shot snuck in under Greys keeper Yusuf, who did well to get down to the ball but his parry bounced off his own knee and went in. Full-blown Mignolet.
Then, begging for the final whistle to put him (and the Greys) out of their misery, Yusuf chose to kick a back pass instead of picking it up. Typically, it went straight to a St. Bids player, who struck the kind of shot you never forget (as much as you try to erase it from your memory afterwards). His lob, from way out, struck the inside of the bar, rolled along the line and went in. And that’s how it ended. Five nil to St. Bids. Bah humbug…