Junior Almanac – Soccer: Booroondara in a classic (Carey)

Booroondara FC v Ashburton United

by Max Borroni

It was the last game of the season, and Booroondara, who were second-last on the ladder, were up against Ashburton, one of the league’s biggest powers. Earlier in the season, Booroondara had lost 4-1 to Ashburton, and so they were definitely the favourites, going in. But Booroondara were not to be ruled out yet. They had a new coach, Luka Vah, who had made some improvements in the team’s line up and formation. And more interesting than that, they had won their last game, against Glen Waverley.

The game started at 10 on a beautiful Sunday morning, and the temperature was perfect. Ashburton showed up to the Booroondara home ground, Macleay Park, with victory in their sights, and confidence levels off the charts. Booroondara were also looking forward to the game, with key players Ishan Merchant and Max Borroni looking for another win to place some hope in the team. Luka Vah, the coach, was also working ferociously on strategy, and explained the new formation to the team in the change rooms. He wanted to play a 6, 8, 10 midfields, which could really help the dynamics of the team.

Ashburton started with the kick-off, and they played the first few minutes of the game in a relaxed manner, passing the ball around until the perfect opportunity arose. But Booroondara didn’t slacken off, and continued to press the ball ferociously in the Ashburton backline. Eventually Zac, Booroondara’s left winger, made a steal up front, and the Ashburton defence didn’t know how to react. He put a beautiful ball in across the goal, and Jake, the right winger, finished it off for a goal. The Ashburton goalkeeper screamed at his defence, shocked that he had just conceded to a team on the bottom of the ladder. The Ashburton coach, Tony Koniopolous, told his team to reset, whilst Luka Vah shouted at his squad to keep it up.

At the next kick-off, Ashburton tried a different approach, by lobbing a ball over the midfield for their striker to run on to. But Alex Lynch, a key player in the Booroondara defence, swept the ball up towards Max Borroni, one of the team’s midfielders. Together with Ishan Merchant, he moved the ball up the ground towards the Ashburton goal, taking on a few players on the way. He played a through-ball to the Dante, the Booroondara striker, who made a beautiful finish on his left foot. Goal! Ashburton looked stunned. 2-0. This was the most they had been down all season.

Right before half-time, Booroondara once again made a connection with the back of the net, and it became 3-0. Ashburton went into the changerooms with their heads low, trying to come up with an answer to Luka Vah’s new midfield. Tony Koniopolous told their midfield they needed to step up, and start thinking about where their passes were going. He told their strikers to be creative up front, and to take on players, and his defence to hold their line, and mark the dangerous players. Time would tell what would happen next.

Booroondara started with some beautiful combination play in the midfield, and continued to look dangerous up front. They hit the post, and the Ashburton coach roared. “Did none of you listen to me at half time? Come on boys, pick it up.”

And they did. Their defence got it to the midfield flawlessly, who then played it off to their front man. And he didn’t fail to get one back, with a quality finish into the bottom corner, miles away from the keeper’s prying hands. 3-1. As Booroondara went back to their half, the captain Nic Taranto shouted: “Come on boys, don’t stop now!”

And for the next 20 minutes of the game, they didn’t. It was neck and neck everywhere, both Ashburton and Booroondara continuously playing the ball around well. But then, with five minutes to go, Ashburton broke the ice. A slip in the Booroondara defence allowed their winger to get in behind the defence and shoot the ball. Sure enough it went in, and the game became a nail-biting 3-2 with five minutes to go. It all came down to this.

In the final minutes of the game, Booroondara worked ferociously to keep the ball. They didn’t try to attack, because they knew if they did, there was a chance they would lose it and then concede. A fight broke out between a Booroondara defender and the Ashburton forward, as the defender was sticking on to him like glue, and wouldn’t let him even get a touch. You could see the determination in every player.

In the end, Booroondara held Ashburton off, and won in an unimaginable underdog effort. The coach was ecstatic, as he knew that the team did have a lot of potential. The next season wouldn’t be the same for the Booroondara Eagles, and everybody knew it.

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