Still, as the game settled, it was the Reds who found their rhythm with quick passing exchanges through the middle of a tight pitch; more Highbury than the Camp Nou. The team in red had a goal ruled out early on for an apparent foul on the goalkeeper who raced off his line to block the initial shot. The opening goal would take place at the other end of the pitch, scored by the more direct Royals. Forward, Nuel latched on to the ball in the right corner of the 18-yard box and fired into the far post bottom corner.
The Reds continued to push men forward, now in search of an equalizer. Often, only centre-backs Bobo and Wale were left to protect the goalkeeper as their team mates busied themselves trying to unlock the Royals defence. Better build-up play saw Toheeb drag a shot wide from the edge of the area in the 12th minute.
There was concern for goal scorer Nuel as he stayed down after a crunching but fair tackle. His team would have the last attack of the half as another forward ball led to a panicked rush off the line from Reds goalie Paul; no harm done however.
After half time, the Royals picked up where they left off with Nuel once more released through the channel; one on one with the keeper, he lifted the ball over the bar. At the other end, Bobo was soon lashing the ball over after a free kick into the box fell kindly to him. As the game wore on, the Reds varied their approach a bit with a long range pass behind the defence which Royals ‘keeper Tunde was alive to. In a matter of seconds however, they were level as Tunde was lured away from his goalmouth and a neat centre found Gideon unmarked for a simple tap in.
A set piece routine would bring the next chance of the game as a wonderfully whipped in free kick found a Royals player unmarked at the far post; the connection wasn’t clean however, and the shot went off target. At this stage, neither team was able to string enough passes together but both were desperate for the next goal. A nice switch of play found Royals forward Uzhkov on the far side but his shot was sliced wide of goal.
The game would come to an end in controversial circumstances. The Royals, yet again, executing their game plan sprung Sly through the Reds’ offside trap and into a race for the ball against the Reds goalkeeper. Paul appeared to have caught the ball before colliding with the Royals forward and leaving both players sprawling on the ground. The ref’s interpretation however was that this was a penalty kick to the Royals; Tunde got a red card for his troubles. Sly would instantly follow him off the pitch as he incurred a second yellow for dissent.
The stage was set for Nuel to win the game from the spot and he made no mistake, bagging his second of the game.
Written by Adebayo Fagbola @fagboo