Hope Fan does brilliantly to intercept a pass in his own area.
Lagos Shooting Star is a team comprised of a few lawyers from the city of Vancouver, they are a team that The Iron has played a number times with a friendly atmosphere. This week’s game was somehow different, as the men who misspelt the Greek for law (logos) had added a few new players to their team, who were happy to talk the talk. Unfortunately for the men from Nigeria, they were unable to walk the walk, as Gastown ran out 2-1 winners in a match they dominated, and realistically should have won far more comfortably.
The big news of the day was the return to on-field action of Ryan Willms, the talismanic co-founder Gastown F.C. who prior to injury was regarded as one of the team’s most influential players. Anchoring the midfield, his presence was sorely missed during the latter half of VMSL season when he tore his cruciate ligaments in a robust coming-together with the UBC turf. Hatchet-man, Sam Gregory (5’3, 110lbs) was nearby, naturally inflicting the injury is now his claim to fame. Injured during the 8th game of the season (The Iron had won 6 of the previous 7), Gastown would win only two more games without Willms, slumping to a mid-table finish after an electric start. Unfortunately, this is not a long-term return for the vice-captain as he will finally have surgery on his knee in August. In spite of this, it was an absolute delight for everyone to see #7 back on the pitch after last playing seven and a half months ago. Ryan came on towards the end of the first half, playing around 40 minutes before being replaced. He was composed and combative as ever, with a hunger that comes from spending 20 games on the touchline, barking at officials. Welcome back, Ry.
Emotions aside, Gastown were looking to maintain their position as top dogs with a game in hand – Europa FC won their match at the weekend to keep the pressure on the boys in burgundy. Expecting a less combative match (from previous encounters with LSS), The Iron were caught on the back foot after kick-off when a slightly nastier tone seemed to be brewing. Several crosses were swung in, and corners conceded before Gastown took a strangle-hold on the game that they would rarely relinquish. Ruprah had the ball in the back of net quite early on, but was ruled offside, a pattern that would repeat itself many times throughout the match; The Bolivian/Qatari/New Guinean striker needing to delay his runs a little to avoid becoming the next Pippo ‘Born-on-the-offside-line’ Inzaghi. When half time came, The Iron were frustrated at not having scored despite their dominance and the slick-passing of Hope Fan and Emre Caliskan: a pesky and intelligent duo in the heart of the Gastown midfield. The former having playing Steve Mah in with a beautiful pass that the Malay could only hit into the side netting. Cpt Parrott also had a hard, low shot saved well after a swivel and turn freed him from his marker and later got on the end of a chip from Andre Alves to drive a half-volley inches over the crossbar.
The second half started the same way the first ended, with The Iron exerting total dominance. For all their smart passing and intelligent movement, it was a good old-fashioned ball over the top that would break the deadlock. Collecting the ball from a poor free kick, Whelan sent the ball some 70 yards over the top of the backpedalling defenders into the path of recently subbed-on whale-lover, Alexis Lum. The Teacher of Tsawwassen took his time and the chance looked gone before he uncharacteristically muscled his way to a bouncing ball which he managed to dink over the on-rushing keeper and onto the crossbar. Fortunately for The Iron, the ball fell kindly to Ruprah who continued his rich vein of form, scissor-kicking the waist high ball past the stranded keeper. Following the goal, Gastown’s biggest weakness, complacency, kicked in. Possession was hurried, passes were played too long, and gradually they lost their grip on the game. Coupled with the upped intensity of the Stars (embodied by the clattering the GFC goalkeeper took after claiming a routine ball into the box – yellow card), the lead was never going to last. In the 68th minute, a corner was whipped towards the front post, and was glanced into the near top corner, à la Pepe . At 1-1, the game was in the balance; the momentum with the Nigerian lawyers.
Fortunately for Gastown, Hope Fan would come to their rescue with a brilliant overlapping run and finish following a one-two with Amr Amin starting just outside his own area. Picking up the Egyptian’s pass, Fan ran half the length of the pitch before cutting inside and finishing with aplomb with his right foot into the far bottom corner. Moments after this, he would rescue his team once again with a groin/testicle achingly good stretched interception to cut out a pass on the penalty spot, the hulking Greco striker behind him cursing in disbelief. The only other moment of drama came as the final whistle blew, an attacking free-kick allowed the Stars to send one last dangerous ball into the mixer. Unbeknownst to virtually everyone, the Shooting Star's keeper had ghosted in at the back post where he connected with a flick-on header, his half-volley was skied from six yards. He was also ruled offside.
A short gap until The Iron’s next game against 3rd placed Astro FC, a team that loves Houston and artificial football pitches so much, they named their team after them. The Iron will welcome David Yesaya back into central midfield, hopefully to become a powerful unit with the evergreen Ryan Willms. With a Rolls Royce midfield, The Iron will look to send out a statement of intent to the chasing pack.
Ironman of the match: Hope Fan
Next match: vs. Astro FC - June 17th, 18:00 Andy Livingstone Park. Form Guide: LWWWL