The Southern Amateur League began their UEFA Regions' Cup campaign with a goalless draw in Italy.
UEFA Regions' Cup Intermediary Round
1.30pm, Monday 27 October 2008
Fausto Coppi, Tortona
Southern Amateur League, representing England, got their UEFA Regions' Cup qualifying campaign off to a promising start with a hard earned 0-0 draw against a determined Republic of Ireland side in Tortona.
Region I, representing Republic of Ireland, almost took the lead after five minutes. A promising move down the right wing ended with Alex Ewin crossing across the face of the goal and past the oustretched leg of Michael Ayres who was sliding in at the far post.
The first-half continued with the Southern Amateurs having the upper hand in what was an entertaining and keenly contested period, although lacking in clear- cut chances.
The only chance of note for Region I came on 37 minutes, when an excellent cross by Carroll was met by Lacey whose powerful header was well saved by Dan Ashley in the England goal. The first half ended goalless with SAL just shading it in terms of possession.
SAL manager Bob Leeds made one change at half-time with Nick Haynes replacing Michael Ayres who had worked tirelessly in the first 45 minutes. Region I enjoyed the better of the early exchanges in the second half with O’Connell going close with a glancing header on 52 minutes and three minutes later an appeal for a penalty being turned away by the Israeli referee Jakov after Walsh had gone down in the area.
Leeds made two more changes, with Matt Kerr replacing Mark Henry and Jack Gavin replacing Osman Okkaya. The second half continued at pace with neither side having the cutting edge to break down two very solid defensive units. But on 58 minutes a break by Henry ended with him being halted by a high challenge by an Irish defender and despite what appeared valid penalty claims all that Henry received was a yellow card for over-zealous appeal.
The final ten minutes were a tense affair with Region I pushing forward but unable to break down an SAL defence with Neil Currie and James Ayres in particular giving strong performances. The game ended with honours shared and both sides keeping their interest in the competition still very much alive.
SAL's next fixture on Wednesday will be crucial when they take on the hosts and Italy's representatives in Alessandria, who have made a promising start with a comprehensive 3-1 win over East of Scotland.
SAL boss Leeds was more than satisfied with his team’s showing, saying: “The match was even but I thought that over the 90 minutes we probably just shaded it. We go into our second match knowing that we must now step up a further gear to ensure that we pick up three points.
"Having seen the other game in the group, I feel that we have played the strongest team in the group this afternoon. Having said that, we must ensure that our hard work this afternoon counts for something on Wednesday."