Looking to capitalise on their strong performance in the previous match, BEFC trekked out into Saitama for a chilly evening kick off against relegation candidates Shane FC. With the other division 2 front runners already dispatching Shane quite significantly, this was a must win game and needed a strong scoreline to herald in the comeback from the season's abysmal start. Ending the first half of the season with some Christmas cheer was the way to go!!
Unfortunately like many movie hero tropes, BEFC went down 0 - 1 early to a lack of defensive aggression and a rather remarkable wonder shot which they needed to comeback from to complete their redemption and triumph! Shane FC were under pressure from the start although BEFC were taking their time to warm up. After a good attack broke down, a simple Shane punt over the top down BEFC's left side, allowed ex-Sala's Tobias Long to find enough space to launch a speculative but lucky long shot that went high into the flood lights and dipped over Sasada into the net.
This goal from the heavens ruffled BEFC but their reaction was strong and with more strong persistent attacking and running from Witvliet, Katase and Sakk the Shane defence began to buckle under the pressure. A whipped in Katase cross was speeding towards the back post into the path of Witvliet when the Shane defender transgressed with a hearty shove into Witvliet's back, preventing the goal scoring opportunity but providing BEFC the chance to restore parity with a penalty. Katase stepped up and made no mistake to redeem BEFC from the early set back.
At the restart BEFC brought on Bato and Owatsu who both made an immediately impact in attack and defence. BEFC rampaged forward repeatedly, and it wasn't long before Witvliet, constantly troubling the centerbacks with his direct movement, broke through the lines to slot one home. Almost immediately afterwards, the Shane defence reeling from persisting attacks across their line from Witvliet, Katase and Bato with Sakk and Maki in support, as well as Simon and Fushimi joining from fullback, collapsed. The space created by BEFC's movement and release from build up play allowed Katase to break forward, skip across the front of the penalty area and cleverly lay the ball off to Bato arriving at speed. Bato punched through the gap between centerback and fullback, took a touch in his stride and powered the ball home. This sequence of 3 goals in about 10 minutes utterly crushed Shane's hopes of causing any upset.
The second half had more of the same, with BEFC controlling the play, always looking dangerous in attack and solid at the back. There were a lot of chances created and it could have been more, but BEFC remained focused and patient, not over commiting and letting Shane get any glimpse of hope. However in a similar way to the first Shane goal, they conjured something out of nothing. After a BEFC attack broke down, Shane immediately punted forwarded and it perhaps took both centerbacks by surprise. The ball was partially blocked, bobbled and went through towards the goal but also into the path on the onrushing Shane striker. With Sasada off his line, but not close enough to get to the ball first, and no covering center back the striker had an easy shot into the back of the net. Against the run of play it gave Shane that bit of hope BEFC wanted to deny them, and Shane started to put more endeavour into their play.
However that wasn't to last as BEFC again turned up the energy, and it wasn't too long before after a good wide attack and cut back found it's way to Sakk in the box. After some blocked shots and a few shenanigans in the box, Sakk recovered the ball and cleverly dummied the defence to the inside, twisted the opposite way and planted the ball into the net.
Now at 4 - 2, there would be no comeback and if anything more likely more BEFC goals. The game pietered out with more chances, tired legs and controlled to the whistle by BEFC. Christmas cheer all round and a job well done in a satisfying victory, especially for the strike-force with each attacker getting onto the scoresheet.
The nomination for MVP were close and between the two team 'buddies' who came on together at 20 minutes. Owatsu made an immediate impact in defensive midfield with great positional awareness and strong battling for the ball to snuff out any Shane composure when came forward. However it was Ririo Bato who got the nod, looking much like the Ririo many BEFC members remember from destroying them during Embassy futsal sessions. Having recovered from a horrible ACL injury in his first TML match for BEFC, we always wondered how that would affect his game. Now just returning for this season from New York, he was looking fit, quicker and trickier than ever. A constant menace down the left side, involved in plenty of link up play, battling to get the ball back and scoring perhaps the tastiest team goal of the night, Bato had an outstanding game.
The Adecco BEFC (Christmas) MVP awards against Shane FC goes to Ririo Bato.