Birmingham WLV Futsal Club 3 – 4 London Helvecia Futsal Club
By Isaac Barrington
Summer Showdown Champions London Helvecia edged out a spirited Birmingham WLV side in an entertaining curtain-raiser for the highly anticipated 2021/22 edition of The FA National Futsal Series.
Loughborough University was the venue from which the new campaign commenced, as Helvecia moved into life without Raoni Medina following his retirement. Birmingham on the other hand had a strengthened squad at their disposal, including a debut for recently signed Romanian international Marius-Cristian Matei.
Off the back of their European ventures, Helvecia came out of the traps all guns blazing. However, despite the Londoners early pressure, it was Birmingham who took the lead mid-way through the first half. Having taken to the big stage impressively, teenager Kirut Jagpal set up Zac Price to break the deadlock with a neat second post finish.
Having worked so hard to earn their advantage, the manner in which Birmingham let it slip was bitterly disappointing. Birmingham left their net un-guarded as Cristin took up position to play out from a defensive kick-in, and an isolated Price’s decision-making was punished as Araujo nipped in to square the game.
Minutes later, Finney, just 17, was dispossessed in the centre of the court, and with no free kick forthcoming Helvecia manipulated their overload for newly-appointed captain Ivan Dju to turn the game on its head.
Moving into the second half, Helvecia began to control possession and it wasn’t long before they got their just reward. Dju was instrumental in their third goal, dispossessing Bright on the half way line and rolling in Araujo who poked a low shot past the advancing Cristin to extend Helvecia’s lead.
Birmingham were not about to lie down though. Helvecia, who had made sporadic use of the fly-keeper during the first half, might have considered a more cautious approach with a two goal lead. Reed anticipated a pass to Helvecia keeper Croft as he crossed the half-way line and toed the ball away from him. Withers was quick on to the loose ball and his looping strike from his own half found the empty net to reduce the deficit.
At this stage it felt as though the next goal could be crucial, and Helvecia put their foot on the gas to restore their two-goal cushion. A neat piece of combination play between Ribeiro and Dju meant the latter found space down the left flank, and with 12 minutes left on the clock he fired the ball between the sticks and past a helpless David Cristin.
That was the way it stayed until the final minute of the contest. Birmingham coach Ikhlaq Hussain resisted the temptation to introduce the fly-keeper, instead employing a high press tactic with the Jagpal brothers catching the eye in Birmingham’s attempts to get back into the game. Birmingham keeper Cristin eventually ventured to the far end of the court and after a good passing move involving all five Birmingham players, it was Cristin who popped up as the extra man on the second post to smash the ball high into the roof of the net. It was ultimately too little too late for Birmingham though, and Helvecia were able to see out the remaining 11 seconds to take home all three points.
Birmingham will be disappointed with the manner in which they conceded the four goals but should be pleased with the resilience they showed to stay in the contest in the second half. Their next fixture against Bolton will be another tough match-up with both sides keen to register their first points on the board.