The Bridgewater U10 football team travelled to Platt Lane Sports Complex in Manchester to participate in the AJIS Football Tournament. With 16 schools competing for honours it was going to take a monumental effort to progress through the rounds. The first task was to win the group in order to qualify for the semi-finals of the main competition. With the rain lashing down and the wind blowing across the 4G pitches, Bridgewater kicked off against St Ambrose knowing a good start was needed.
Playing in defence but with a license to break into midfield, Alfie made the most of the brief and tested the keeper early on. A couple of sighters later and Alfie had put Bridgewater into a deserved 1-0 lead. However, the boys were struggling to find their rhythm against top quality opposition and chances were limited for Tommy, Josh and Anton across the front line. Eventually, Bridgewater cracked under the pressure of a long throw and failed to clear the ball and the game was level at 1-1. With time running out, Alfie drove down the wing and fired the winner into the bottom corner of the net for a deserved 2-1 victory.
Next up was the hosts St Bedes and for some reason, Bridgewater played with too much respect and fear of their opponents. Goalkeeper Luca struggled to keep out three fierce drives and Bridgewater found themselves 3-0 down very early on. Although the team were shell shocked, they recovered to score a lovely team goal involving Toby, Josh and Tommy, before Luca B fired into the back of the net.
With qualification for the “Champions League” all but over, the team had to win the final group game to go through to the semi-finals of the “Europa” league competition. Merchant Taylor’s from Liverpool stood between Bridgewater and progression. Toby and Alfie were solid at the back and Josh, Luca and Joel probed from midfield. Alfie had a wonderful shot saved by the keeper and Anton hit the post with the rebound. With two minutes to go Tommy charged down the opposition centre back to win back the ball and beat the keeper to the rebound to prod the ball over the line. Bridgewater hung in for the 1-0 win to see them into the semi- final.
Stockport Grammar awaited the team in the semi and were in no mood to go out of the competition at this stage. Alfie and Toby were caught out at the back and Stockport went into a deserved 1-0 lead. Luca made an important save to keep the score to 1-0 and Josh put in an amazing tackle on the goal line to prevent a second and decisive goal for Stockport. With seconds to go, Alfie rode two tackles down the left and blasted the ball into the bottom corner to send the game into “golden goal” extra time. By now Bridgewater were dominant and it took a foul to stop Alfie putting Bridgewater into the final. His free kick was a delight to see, 25 yards out, curling around the wall only to crash back off the post. The dreaded penalty shoot-out was next with two penalties for each team. Alfie scores his after Stockport missed their first penalty. Needing to score, the Stockport striker fired the ball into the bottom right of the goal, only to see Luca spring across and make a spectacular save to put a jubilant Bridgewater into the final.
The mighty Grange School lay in wait for the team, but the boys had saved their best performance for last. Bridgewater dominated the game from start to finish and sprayed the ball around with renewed confidence. Sabri and Luca shared the keeper duties but were rarely troubled. Chances came thick and fast and Bridgewater finally found a ruthless streak. Goals from Alfie, Josh, Tommy and Anton (2) gave the team a thumping 5-0 win! Alfie earned the man of the match award but the whole team can take great pride and credit for their determination, tenacity and of course their football ability. A great day’s work, especially when the rest of the school had the day off for the Entrance Exams. Well done team!