The ESR FJ Cup and Plate finals was held down at YCAC
The finals was a rematch of the cup finals 2 seasons ago, where BEFC triumphed over Pumas in a 1-0 victory.
Just like all the previous finals, it was a bitty game. Both teams have proven throughout their season that they can move the ball well but this was difficult to achieve in the finals.
Given how important the match was, and with both teams holding a few subs, the players worked extra hard to take away any space from their opponents. Combined with YCAC's relatively narrower pitch, playing tiki taka football was a challenge.
The game started off in favor of Pumas... quite literally. BEFC were missing their usual goalkeeper and so they had to use one of their defenders to fill in the nets. Although Pumas recognized this before kick off, they could not test the keeper as much as they probably would have liked to. Although Pumas had more of the ball, they could not get their final shot on target. The few shots they did have was surprisingly well saved by the fill in goal keeper. However, after 20 minutes of relentless attacking, Yuta Gonai (Pumas) scored a beauty of a goal from outside the box. A shot sniped into the bottom corner of the goal that was so well placed that the keeper could not move an inch. It was a goal that would have probably gone in regardless of who was in nets. After giving up the lead, BEFC played more to their usual style. They were able to orchestrate the ball better through the mid with their talented but couldn't quite penetrate the attacking third. Things were looking for BEFC until Tahar Dali (Pumas) scored another goal to double the lead. In the last 10 minutes Ken Hamaya (BEFC) poaches a goal to keep BEFC in the game but it was too little too late. The game ended in a 2-1 victory with Pumas as the Cup champions.
Photos from the cup final can be seen on facebook:
The other final was also very intense. The plate finalists, Brunello and Clash, had already faced off twice in the league. Brunello had the slight upper hand with 1 win and 1 draw but Clash had the higher standings.
Unlike the cup, both teams were able to showcase a bit of their team's usual strategies. Clash used the width of the pitch effectively by incorporating their fullbacks while Brunello aimed to play more through the middle. Despite Clash creating more chances in the attacking third, with an abundance of crosses from the wings, Brunello repelled them all without losing a goal. Brunello was able to break the back line and create opportunities but the goalkeeper did well to keep the ball out of the nets. The game ended in a scoreless draw. The winners were to be determined by penalties. Both teams were surprisingly friendly with each other, acknowledging that they both gave their best efforts and that win or lose, they wouldn't be upset.
The penalties were well executed by both teams, with the fourth Brunello PK finally being stopped. However, the referee signaled that the keeper was off his line, nullifying the save. The retake penalty was completed successfully and gave Brunello a swing of momentum. Clash hit the crossbar on their next penalty, concluding the match. Brunello were Plate champions of 2023.
Photos from the plate can be seen here:
Congratulations to both Pumas and Brunello. Interestingly the two of them faced off in the first round of the ESR FJ Cup and they both went on their separate ways to become champions!