It was the biggest match of the season so far, two undefeated teams going head-to-head, renewing their historic rivalry! A full Lions squad arrived early and ready to go, eager to get revenge after losing the championship to the Marlins last season.
The opening stages of the match saw the Lions sit back, content to let Marlins play out of their defence. The Marlins midfielders looked to get the ball out wide quickly before crossing from deep into the box. The early crosses from deep gave a preview of the Marlins’ game plan and allowed our new center backs, Koen and Jesse, to settle into their first Lions-Marlins match by winning the early aerial battles. The Marlins often looked for cross-field switches as they looked to get their speedy wingers involved, but Masa and Nico were dominating their individual matchups and didn’t allow their Marlins wingers to get comfortable in the game. The Marlins had one or two crosses that looked threatening and a few shots from distance but, for the most part, our keeper Noel wasn’t challenged.
As both teams settled into the game, the Lions found opportunities to break with speed. The Marlins didn’t look comfortable on the few occasions that the Lions pushed up and pressed them higher up the field and they started to become frustrated with themselves. Romain, Azz and Tyrone had half-chances, but the score remained 0-0 until Azz broke down the left-hand side on a counter-attack, beat his man around the outside, and whipped a looping shot into the far corner of the net from close to the endline. 1-0 Lions! The pace of the game picked up and Marlins pushed forward. As their midfielders surged forward and their wingbacks pushed on, it left room for the Lions to exploit on the counter-attack. On one of these occasions, Azz held the ball up looking for the run of Romain only to see a blur of speed bursting through the middle of the Marlins defense! Patrick made the run, Azz put the ball through the gap, and Pat slide the ball passed an onrushing keeper. 2-0! Tempers started to flare as the game heated up just before half-time, but it went to half 2-0.
The Lions utilized their bench and made a few changes at half-time. It was a true team effort, with each player giving everything they had when on the pitch. The second half started similarly to how the first half ended. Marlins continued to launch long balls into the box, but Koen, Jack, Masa, and Nico dealt with them with relative ease. The midfield subs kept doing the job that Yohan, Pat, Tyrone, and Zach did in the first half, containing the space in the middle and looking to break with speed. The Lions pushed further up the field, pressing the backline of the Marlins who didn’t look comfortable under pressure. The game was tense as the next goal would be important. If Marlins got it, they would feel they had a way back into the game. If the Lions got it, it would put them just about out of reach. It took a moment of magic. Azz received the ball 35 yards out, turned his man and looked up to see the Marlins keeper off his line and sublimely chipped him from distance! 3-0 Lions!
The Marlins continued to push for a goal but started to become more and more frustrated with themselves, the referee, and the Lions. It was a sign of the Lions success. Our game plan had not given the Marlins a chance. The Marlins continued to look for opportunities down the wings and once or twice put dangerous crosses into the box. Noel remained alert, confident, and showed a safe pair of hands in goal despite the rainy conditions. The Lions didn’t stop and continued to pressure the backs of the Marlins. Dave put their left-back and keeper under pressure causing a poor clearance that Matty intercepted. Matty got to the loose ball ahead of the scrambling Marlins and laid it off to Dave for the easiest of tap-ins. 4-0! As the game drew to a close, pressure by Matty lead to Tyrone winning the ball in the Marlins half and putting them on the back foot again. Tyrone fed Matty who beat two defenders before smashing it low into the far corner. 5-0! The fifth was the icing on the cake and the Lions enjoyed a sweet victory, our largest over the Marlins since a 7-1 thrashing in 2016.
The beers after the game were well-deserved and the Lions will now get back to work to build upon this impressive victory.
Click here for the match statistics.