Fourth title in The FA National Futsal League Grand Finals for London-based team.
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A valiant and outstanding performance from Sheffield Futsal Club in The FA National Futsal League Grand Finals was very nearly enough to end Helvecia’s dominance in English Futsal. Sheffield are left to rue the chances that they missed, as an exciting finale to a weekend of top-class Futsal emphasised once again the strength and superiority of Helvecia as they were crowned the English National Champions for the fourth consecutive year.
After a long season in The FA National Futsal Leagues, the two top clubs from each of the three leagues (Midlands, North and South Leagues), met at the Grand Finals at the Surrey Sports Park to play for the right to be called ‘National Champion’ and to get the opportunity to represent England in the UEFA Futsal Cup next season. Three times champions Helvecia were the firm favourites coming into the Grand Finals, but Sheffield, Manchester and Team United Birmingham had all made impressive strides during the season to close the gap on the London club.
Sheffield and Team United opened the group games of the Grand Finals in an exciting first match. The Birmingham club took a two-nil lead, but just before half-time Sheffield levelled it to 2-2. At the start of the second half both teams traded goals, but the fluid passing and movement of Sheffield was too much for Team United with the Northern League champions eventually winning 8-4 with Joel Rocha scoring a hat-trick.
The second game saw Helvecia take on Manchester Futsal Club, in a tough opening encounter for the favourites. Rob Ursell and an own goal gave Helvecia an early comfortable cushion, but Manchester to their credit played some excellent Futsal that tested and challenged Helvecia. Manchester dominated possession for much of the second half, with Stuart Cook, Eduardo Betancor and Doug Reed all shining for the northern club. Unfortunately the main difference between the clubs was the clinical finishing: Manchester not making the most of their chances, but Helvecia ruthless when they had a sight of goal. A 4-1 scoreline to Helvecia perhaps did not do Manchester justice.
Team United against the Southern League runners up, FC Baltic, was a tight and tactical match with both clubs knowing they needed to win to stand much chance of progressing to the Final. Baltic were strong and defensively solid, but did not play particularly expansively, and although Team United played better than they did in their first game they made hardwork of this game which they eventually won 4-3.
Chippenham Futsal Club came into the Grand Finals in a ragged state; England captain Luke Ballinger missed their first game through suspension, whilst three other first team players were missing through injury. Subsequently Chippenham with only six available players in the first game and seven players in the second faced a demolition in both of their matches. Manchester hit a record for the biggest ever Grand Finals victory, winning 20-1 and Helvecia further compounded this humiliation with a 17-6 win over the runners-up from the Midlands league.
To round off the group stages, Baltic needed to beat Sheffield by three goals to stand any chance of making the Final. And although they started brightly taking a 2-1 lead within three minutes, Sheffield moved through the gears playing some exquisite Futsal whilst Baltic looked a little toothless in front of goal. A hat-trick from England international Ben Mortlock saw Sheffield through to the Final with a 9-4 victory.
The way Sheffield had played in their two groups games suggested that they had enough calibre to stretch Helvecia in the Final, and that perhaps this was the year that the London club relinquished their tight grip over English Futsal. But the familiar faces from Helvecia would not be going down without a fight, and Elizandro Lima’s goal in the second minute soon dampened any of Sheffield’s lofty aspirations. Helvecia continued the remainder of the first half playing intricate Futsal at a high tempo that made it difficult for Sheffield to live with; Sheffield’s strong defence and a couple of missed chances from Helvecia kept the northern club in the game. But Paulo Flausino finally slotted a second for Helvecia, and it looked like Sheffield would have a mountain to climb until just before half-time they scored through Jonathan Steel finishing off an excellent move to give them a lifeline.
Sheffield emerged the brighter team in the second half; they harried and pressed the Helvecia players across the pitch, allowing them no time to play. Sheffield were far more accomplished in possession in the second period, with the likes of Joel Rocha, Ollie Wheatley-O’Neil and Richard Ward posing significant problems for the London club. Sheffield went close to equalising on a number of occasions, squandering glorious chances to really put pressure on the defending champions. And with eight minutes to go the player of the tournament Rocha finally finished off another excellent passing move to make it 2-2.
Helvecia exploded back into life, and the excitement levels of the large appreciative crowd at the Surrey Sports Park soared, as both teams went for the kill in an end-to-end flurry of counter attacking Futsal. Within a minute, Helvecia snatched back the lead through Bruno Vittorino. But still Sheffield would not concede defeat, with Sotonye, O’Neill and Rocha all having good chances to bring them back into the game. Eventually the superior strike force of Helvecia proved the difference between these two clubs; as Sheffield pushed forward and pressed the clinical Raoni Medina put the nail in the coffin for Helvecia with a sweet finish to make it 4-2 with three minutes remaining, followed by a further goal by Eduardo Gomes in the last minute to give the Helvecia captain the Golden Boot for the competition.
Helvecia deserved the victory, but 5-2 does not reflect the qualities of the Sheffield team who really pushed the Champions right to the end. If Sheffield had shown more composure in front of goal, the story could have been very different; but with their young squad Sheffield look like they have a bright and promising future. Many superlatives have been written about the qualities of Helvecia, and winning the Championship for four consecutive years is a tremendous achievement. But they need to work hard to keep at the top of their game as the likes of Sheffield and Manchester are catching them quickly. The FA Futsal Cup at the start of July will be very interesting.