The Three Lions picked up their first ever victory on Monday night, edging an 8-7 thriller over Greece.
England 8-7 Greece
7pm Monday 17 December 2007
Nechells Community Sports Centre, Birmingham.
History was made at the Nechells Community Sports Centre in Birmingham on Monday evening, as the England Futsal team picked up their first ever victory, beating Greece in what was a thrilling match from start to finish.
Graeme Dell’s team have been growing closer and closer to sealing their elusive first win in recent months, but they always looked like securing victory on this occasion, showing desire, character and skill throughout the game.
There were plenty of heroic performances from the Three Lions and the sizeable crowd, including England Under-21 Head Coach Stuart Pearce, certainly appreciated the show and joined in with the celebrations at the final whistle.
England made a bright start to the game and could’ve taken the lead on a number of occasions, before Greece edged ahead against the run of play with Mourdoukoutas Sokratis firing home after England were caught out on the break in the third minute.
Two minutes later and England were back level though, as Alex Sykes turned the ball home from close range after a swift move from the Three Lions.
England built on that advantage and less than a minute later they took the lead when Jon Adams struck a fine shot past Greek keeper Achis Christos, following good work from Darren Budd.
The goal flurry continued, when Soilemes Stefanos drilled a low shot past England goalkeeper Eric Pudaloff to bring it back to 2-2.
They almost took the lead after eight minutes, when a shot was blocked on the line by Budd, allowing England to hit the visitors on the break and that resulted in Sykes netting his second goal of the night to restore the advantage.
It was entertaining stuff, with both teams attacking each other at will, but England will have been disappointed with the way in which they conceded a fourth equaliser as Deloportas Ioannis latched onto a loose ball on the right and fired an angled shot past Pudaloff to make it 4-4 with eight minutes of the first half remaining.
Greece built further on that and went in at the break holding a 5-4 advantage, thanks to Bousbouras Ilias’ powerful left footer.
Whatever was said at half time by Dell and his staff certainly worked though, as England came out for the second half and got themselves on level terms within seconds, when Luke Ballinger capitalised on a short back pass to toe-poke past Christos and into the net.
Unfortunately, England’s defensive woes allowed Greece back into the lead again, as a quickly taken corner caught everyone out and Delaportas Ioannis was gifted a simple second for himself.
The Three Lions bounced back yet again though, when a fine move between Adams and Marc Canham ended with Ashley Allanson heading home to make it 6-6.
With the match on a knife edge, both sides had chances to take control with further goals and England had to be thankful to Pudaloff on a number of occasions as he made a string of fine saves.
The Greeks were also giving away a succession of fouls and with eight minutes remaining, their sixth offence took place, giving England a penalty kick. Ballinger stepped up, but Christos guessed right to make a good save and keep England at bay.
Another Greek foul just a minute later saw another penalty award and Ballinger made no mistake with seven minutes remaining to edge England ahead again. The Greeks were also reduced to ten men, after Mostrios Ioannis was given a second caution whilst debating the penalty award.
With victory just minutes away, England had to be at their best to keep the visitors at bay and there were one or two nailbiting moments and further heroics from Pudaloff to keep the lead in tact.
Greece were really pushing for a leveller and with keeper Christos supporting his team-mates on the half way line, England moved one step closer to victory when the visitors squandered possession and skipper Richard Follett executed an inch perfect lob from his own half to make it 8-6 with just over two minutes left on the clock.
There was still more to come however, as Greece brought it back to 8-7 through Bousbouras Ilias with only one minute remaining.
England held their nerve though and things got rather heated in the final moments as Adams frustrated Greece by shielding the ball in the corner of the pitch, prompting another foul, another penalty and another red card for Greece, all with just one second left!
Christos managed to save Ballinger’s shot, but it wasn’t to matter as the celebrations were already under way for England’s first ever, and deserved, Futsal victory.
England squad: Dean Thornton, Marc Canham, Matt Townley, Jon Adams, Ashley Allanson, Paul Maddison, Nick Colley, Richard Follett, Steve Harrison, Alex Sykes, Sam Tucknott, Darren Budd, Eric Pudaloff, Luke Ballinger.
Greece squad: Pappas Konstantinos, Bousbouras Ilias, Delaportas Ioannis, Ziakas Anastasios, Mostrios Ioannis, Soilemes Stefanos, Panou Thomas, Stamoulos Marios, Gritzalis Spiridon, Mourdoukoutas Sokratis, Manos Antonis, Troulitakis Marios, Gaifilias Apostolos, Achis Christos.
England take on Greece again in a second game at the Nechells Community Sports Centre on Tuesday evening. Kick-off is at 7pm.