England Futsal wins back-to-back fixtures against Andorra.
International Futsal double-header
England v Andorra
12 November 2010: England 3-1 Andorra
13 November 2010: England 5-0 Andorra
The England Futsal squad had an outstanding weekend with record-breaking performances and two impressive displays in front of large, appreciative crowds at Loughborough University.
This is the first occasion in the England Futsal squad’s short six year history that they have won back-to-back games, and with it being against a nation that is ranked 28 places higher than the Three Lions in the FIFA Futsal world rankings, it was particularly pleasing for Coach Pete Sturgess and his men.
In the first game particularly, England played some excellent Futsal, looking confident, controlled and appearing as if they believed they would beat this Andorran team. Belief is something that is gradually growing within this England squad, and two convincing wins of this nature will stand the team in good stead for the upcoming UEFA European Futsal Championship qualifiers in January.
England captain Luke Ballinger may have stolen the show over the course of these two games with his four crucial goals sealing the victories in both games, as well as earning him the record of England Futsal’s highest ever goalscorer, but it was not just a one-man show. The entire England squad played important parts over the course of these two games, with key contributions from a number of individuals.
England started the first game in breathtaking fashion, playing at a high-tempo, with slick accurate passing and good quality movement off the ball. And indeed, a slip on the half-way line by an Andorran defender within the first minute allowed Ballinger his first goal into the bottom corner with confidence. It was the perfect start for Pete Sturgess’s men and helped to relieve some of the tension in the players.
Andorra had shown glimpses of being able to cause England some trouble, and a couple of tidy saves from goalkeeper Curtis Holmes ensured England were in the lead at half-time. However, this quickly changed when an uncharacteristic defensive mistake from the Three Lions directly from the Andorran kick-off for the second half allowed them to storm through the heart of England’s team to enable Raventos to slide the ball past Holmes and into the bottom corner to level the game.
England bounced back, with Rob Ursell, in electric form, directing the pattern of England’s play. The Andorran’s simply could not get to grips with Ursell’s quick feet and sharp movement, and he tore into the Andorran defence creating a number of goalscoring chances for himself and his team-mates.
However, it was Ballinger who gave England the lead, finishing off a strong English passing move, with Ursell quickly adding a third goal to seal the game. England continued to play positively and controlled the game with Jason Kilbride making his England debut particularly standing out.
The second game started cautiously with both teams opting for patient build-up play rather than some of the more high-tempo Futsal that was played the previous night. In the fifth minute Ben Mortlock finished a slick passing move to give England a 1-0 lead.
England started the second half much like they finished the first, with passes were going astray. Their movement was not as fluid as the previous night and Andorra were effective in breaking up the English playing patterns. Although dominating the game, England looked a little edgy until Rob Ursell fired into the top corner to make it 2-0 after some good work from Byron Andrew and Kilbride.
Andorra did not help themselves when Oriol Anglora petulantly kicked the ball away after a free-kick was given against him and the referees had no choice but to send him off for a second bookable offence. Andorra then seemed to implode and with only four men on the pitch continued to play with a fly-goalkeeper that put considerable strain on their ball retention skills. This tactic backfired dramatically, with Ballinger (twice) and Ben Mortlock both capitalising in the last minute by scoring after seizing possession with the Andorran fly-goalkeeper halfway up the pitch. Three goals in the final minute gave England a 5-0 victory, the largest win an England Futsal team has ever recorded, and allowed Ballinger to reach the momentous landmark of being England’s top goalscorer with 25 goals in 34 games.
These two significant wins are the ideal preparation for the England squad before they embark on their tough European qualification adventure.