BEFC began 2018 with a blast by taking apart current division 2 leaders SUNS FC in the FJC Cup 2nd round. After last years final match BEFC sought to build on their second half performance, focusing on dictating the pace of the game by increasing their movement and passing tempo. With SUNS FC currently top of Division 2, unbeaten, one draw and 34 goals to their name in just 7 matches, they were not an opposition to take lightly. In fact they were showing a similarity in statistics to a certain club promoted into Division 1 this season.
The team arrived motivated, focused and ready to go. A few last minute disasters were managed with Takashi Umeki being able to replace Kirihara, who despite being told he wasn't in the squad to play, decided to come anyway. Commitment paid off and he suited up to join the team.
The opening play saw BEFC very focused, although with some of the quick passing breaking down in the final third it turned very much into a game of counter attacks for both sides.
SUNS were being very fortunate with winning free kicks, for on a cold Winter's afternoon their determination not to stay on their feet was paying off for opportunities to cross the ball towards their big Kiwi target man. However strong defending and the air of predictability enabled BEFC to thwart the early attempts.
In fact it was down the wings SUNS were generating the most threat with pacey wingers and both teams intent on pushing forward aggressively, hence the match of counter vs counter. And it was BEFC who countered hardest first with a lovely through ball to Takashashi who skipped by the keeper and unselfishly squared back to Sakk for the opener.
This opened the path to more goals, but also to SUNS finding more space on the flanks to deliver deeper and more threatening cut backs. Thankfully BEFC being tactically astute, Palmer and Witvliet devised a plan for the midfield, and keeping the center still solid, allowed Witvliet to hunter-kill threats to the side, effectively shutting down the previously weak channels. This tweak in strategy had a big effect for BEFC as it made a much firmer platform for the offensive players to get down to business, and very soon BEFC had another goal and were in the driving seat.
The second half saw more of the same, as BEFC worked on their tempo and movement, with the back five now comfortable in holding up the SUNS offence.
Overall a great team performance, a strong build on the areas BEFC were trying to improve, positive communication and onfield tactical nous and a reminder that Division 1 football is a huge step up from Division 2, even if you are dominating in it.
When it came to MVP nominations, it was going to be very difficult, simply because everyone played well both individually and on a team level. Nominations were a little light because in the chilly Sunday evening weather not many player hung about for a long chat. However the key captaincy got together and had a discussion.
A 5 - 0 result was great against the D2 leaders, who not only have only conceded 11, but has also racked up 35 goals in 7 games. In essence the margin of victory both offensive and defensively via a clean sheet really did BEFC credit. In fact post-game SUNS player stated they were surprised not to have scored considering their form.
This brought a very close MVP down to a player working hard keeping SUNS big target man in check, as well as tabs on their tricky, pacey striker who liked to fall over to win freekicks. Captain Ben Palmer had the task of keeping SUNS target man in check, a big New Zealander who SUNS consistently sought to set up for headers. With their tendency to engineer free kicks it seemed a viable strategy. However by half time they had given up, with Palmer winning roughly 75% of the challenges against him. Instead they then tried to stick their fast, lightweight striker against him, and have the target man set up for flick ons. However this was probably a worse choice since Palmer's entire D2 role was a center back who can run as fast as pacey strikers. In both strategies, Palmer shut down the finisher making them ineffective and robbing SUNS of a route to the end product.
However it wasn't just the defending itself, since all defending is a team effort.
Donning his captain's hat, Palmer and Witvliet organised mid-game a new midfield strategy to close down SUNS on the flanks, cutting off their route of attack, which had a big impact in allowing the offence more freedom when going forward. Then when SUNS changed their tactics in the second half, Palmer and Villaneuva correctly read their new strategy to organise shutting down their plan for a deeper flick on from the target man onto the quick striker. In both situations SUNS tactics were well read, and countered effectively on the field.
For a strong individual performance of shutting out the SUNS danger-men and more importantly enacting on field tactical changes with team mates, Captain Ben Palmer is the Adecco Most Valuable Player vs SUNS FC.