18th April 2022: Second half capitulation gifts the victory to southern foes.
Kath Heath drops out due to work commitments, and a doubtful Divina was fit enough to make the team.
The last roll of the dice between two teams looking to make it into the top four. Both teams have suffered heavy defeats, and both teams have picked up their only wins of the season in their first and second games against the same opposition in Liverpool. Former foes from the Southern division, Southampton ran out 9-3 winners previously, after going two goals down within the first minute of the game. Both teams clinched their promotion on the final day, finishing third and fourth respectively, with only four goals between them in the goal difference at the end of the Southern season, and only one goal between them at the start of this match.
Both teams came out flying, looking to gain the upper hand early. Southampton kicked off, and the teams went straight into each other, pressing high, looking to force mistakes. The first chance fell to the Aztecs after thirty seconds of play, when the ball bounced up to Laura Ingram who hit a right footed volley just wide of the goal from eight metres.
The next few minutes were very transitional, with both teams looking to press. The result was that neither team could string more than a couple passes together, and the ball kept going out of play. This suited the game plan of the Aztecs who were looking to disrupt Bloomsbury's build up, as they are a side known for keeping possession of the ball, playing out from the back, and using lots of rotations in possession to carve open the opposition. After three minutes, the next real chance of the game fell to Bekah Tonks, who was played in by Laura Ingram down the right, and had her shot tipped wide for a corner by Amo-Donkor.
Ten seconds of play after the resulting corner, and the Aztecs took the lead, via that all too familiar Tonks connection. Bekah cut out a pass on a Bloomsbury counter, and then nutmegged Salas with the outside of the foot to put Kayleigh through on goal, who finished low to the right with her first touch. A great goal, that we've come to expect from these two.
Bloomsbury's first opportunity for a clear shot at goal came after four minutes. R. Tonks committed a foul around eleven metres from goal. Helena Scotland stepped up to take it, leaving the Aztecs fearing the worst, considering her excellent strike against Helvecia a couple weeks prior. Thankfully for Southampton, the ball flew high and wide.
Immediately up the other end, as Lauren Sayler threw long from the goal clearance to R. Tonks, who held up well and laid off K. Tonks, whose volley missed the target. Two minutes after that, Bloomsbury worked a chance from a kick-in. Jenkins laid it off to McGreavy, who shot just wide of the near post. Again, immediately up the other end from a Sayler throw, and it was Divina Alo Ilolo through on goal, but Amo-Donkor came rushing out quickly and made a great save with the foot. McGreavy again came close for Bloomsbury, dribbling through the middle. Her initial shot was blocked by Moody, and then she hit the rebound wide. And then Southampton created a third consecutive chance from a long Sayler throw from a goal clearance. This went direct to Bekah Tonks on the edge of the D, who held the ball up well, then spun and shot, which Amo-Donkor was equal to.
Seven minutes of the first half gone, and Southampton were awarded a huge chance to double the lead. The intense man-to-man pressing forced Bloomsbury into a mistake, playing back to their keeper after she had already touched it. Ingram and R. Tonks stood over the ball, with Broughton and Alo Ilolo attempting to cause a nuisance in the wall. The free-kick had to be taken again, as a Bloomsbury defender encroached the distance and was on the ball before an Aztecs player had even touched it. At the second attempt, Ingram shot wide, and that was her last involvement in the game, as the strike appeared to tweak something in her right thigh.
The next scoring opportunity for Bloomsbury fell to Salas, who was played in on the counter. With Alo Ilolo hunting her down, she thankfully elected to shoot early, just wide of Sayler's far post. The game continued with the same end-to-end feel, without much being created, but high on the turnovers due to the pressing. The next incident of note happened with elven minutes played, when Bloomsbury captain Helena Scotland was awarded a yellow card for encroaching a Southampton kick-in. Practically stood next to Broughton on the line as she played the ball, Scotland made a deliberate attempt to block the restart, while stood around four metres closer than the required five metre distance.
Southampton wasted the restart, and were wasteful for a further thirty seconds following it, allowing Bloomsbury to level the score from a counter-attack. The combination of Curtis and K. Tonks in the middle of the court didn't come off. The loose ball fell to Scotland, with three Southampton players now well in advance of the ball, leaving Bloomsbury with half a court, in a 3v1 against Maidment. Scotland drove forward with the ball, and played it across goal to McGreavy to tap in at the far post and make it 1-1.
Bloomsbury nearly immediately took the lead. Scotland to Sanchez, back to Scotland, who had to extend herself to reach the return pass and guide the ball on target, which Sayler tipped over the bar. Bloomsbury then called for a timeout, and should have scored from that very corner. Sanchez clipped it across to Scotland, who found Salas unmarked at the far post, but she spun and put her shot wide.
With eight minutes remaining in the first half, there was a huge incident in the game, which swung the pendulum back towards the Aztecs. From a Southampton kick-in, the Tonks sisters combined with Moody, and got Bekah free down the left. R. Tonks' toe punted shot was slowed down by the left hand of Amo-Donkor, and scrambled away from the goal line by Scotland. Scotland and Kayleigh Tonks went for the loose ball approaching the edge of the D. Scotland went to ground in an attempt to clear the ball, and took both Tonks sisters down with her. The referees immediately blew for a penalty, and Scotland received a second yellow card. This was the end of her game, a six metre penalty to the Aztecs, and two minutes for Bloomsbury to play short-handed, unless the Aztecs were to score in that time.
After much protestations that Scotland got to the ball, the TV replays showed that she did. However, her trailing leg went right through the back of Kayleigh Tonks' legs, and even took out Bekah too for good measure. Getting the ball doesn't give a player free rein to endanger or harm opponents. If it did, futsal would be a very different game. When the protestations died down, and the game could be resumed, Kayleigh Tonks was tasked with beating Amo-Donkor from the spot. Kayleigh chose to go right, but sadly Amo-Donkor made a very good save. The Bloomsbury celebrations were cut short but a piercing whistle, as the referees demanded a retake for encroachment. On six metre penalties, the keeper must stay on their line, like in football, until the ball is kicked. At the moment Kayleigh Tonks made contact with the ball, Amo-Donkor was a metre off her line. Round 2. Do you keep the same taker? Do you shoot the same direction? Kayleigh Tonks tried her luck again, but shot left instead, which Amo-Donkor saved again, to keep the score level at 1-1.
Bloomsbury may have survived the incident without conceding, but now faced 120 seconds playing 5v4, unless the Aztecs scored at any time during that, in which case they can get back to full strength. It took almost a minute for Southampton to work their first scoring opportunity, with Bekah Tonks shot being parried wide to the left for an Aztecs corner. Bloomsbury did a great job of running down the clock, and almost got a goal for themselves. But it turns out, they didn't suffer the full 120 seconds short-handed, instead only playing 76 of them a player down. The game stopped at 8:07 for the red card and penalty, and then Bloomsbury were back to 5v5 at 6:51, a full 44 seconds earlier than they should have been.
We won't say anything more on this for now.
Southampton were throwing players forward in search of the second goal, to retake the lead. The Aztecs were desperately trying, but couldn't create a scoring opportunity due to the heroic defending of Bloomsbury. Not knowing the powerplay had "finished" Southampton, had committed too many players forward, unaware that Bloomsbury were now back to full strength. With Bekah Tonks on the ground, and Moody and Maidment ahead of the ball, Bloomsbury broke away 2v1 against Kayleigh Tonks. McGreavy fed Salas, whose shot was well saved and put wide for a corner. Sayler then jumped to her feet to chastise her teammates for leaving an opponent open, while the Aztecs players looked around to see who hadn't tracked the runner, unaware that Bloomsbury had put an extra player on the court.
Before the two minutes was up, with Bloomsbury at full strength, they created another chance in what should have been Southampton's power play, with Moody blocking a shot from Salas for a corner. Just as the two minutes was ending, Southampton counter from the corner, against a full strength Bloomsbury, with Curtis and Bekah Tonks one-twoing their way up the court. R. Tonks' first shot was saved by Amo-Donkor, and then was perhaps unfairly adjudged to have fouled the Bloomsbury keeper when competing for the loose ball, who didn't appear to have the ball under sufficient control.
With the powerplay now officially over, Southampton's next best chance fell to Kayleigh Tonks, who had her shot blocked on the edge of the D. The ball went out for a kick-in on the left, and this time Kayleigh served Rebekah, whose shot from wide caused a little trouble for Amo-Donkor. Southampton continued the press, and Nicola Curtis nearly caused some panic within the Bloomsbury defence, but was prevented a goal by the quick reacting Amo-Donkor, who blocked well in the 1v1. Southampton were on the ascendency again, pressing well enough to prevent any Bloomsbury build-up. With four and a half minutes remaining, Southampton had a kick-in on the right, and you guessed it, the Tonks sisters clicked, and produced a goal to give the Aztecs a 2-1 lead. A one-two from the restart, an excellent chop behind the leg from Bekah Tonks, and a left-footed shot/cross to the far post, which was turned in by Bloomsbury's Paula Sanchez. She shouldn't feel too bad, as it hit her with some force, on an awkward part of the body, with Nicola Curtis lurking behind just in case Sanchez missed it.
With only four minutes remaining before half-time, Southampton elected to keep up the intensity, maintain the high press, and search for the third goal to enter the break with a two goal lead. Bekah Tonks and Nicola Curtis came close, as did Divina Alo Ilolo, as her great energy and ability to cover lots of ground was effective at creating opportunities from a counterpress. Charlotte Broughton had a good chance from a chipped through ball by Moody, but failed to make a significant connection from a left-footed volley just inside the D. Alo Ilolo had a second good chance when Sayler launched the ball forward from a throw. Moffat headed away, and then Broughton headed Alo Ilolo through. Amo-Donkor came out quickly to force her wide, and then Bloomsbury had enough defenders recover to clear up the chaos.
Bloomsbury kicked off the second half, and were level only fourteen seconds later at 2-2. Southampton went straight into the press, and McGreavy snuck past Kayleigh Tonks on the blindside, allowing Salas to squeeze a pass just beyond the extended leg of Kayleigh trying to block the pass. McGreavy carried the ball across the halfway line, and toe-punted the ball through Moody's legs, and into the corner past Sayler.
Southampton continued to press, disrupting Bloomsbury's build-up, however this was not sustainable for much longer, as it zapped away at the energy levels of the Aztecs. The game soon began to resemble two exhausted boxers swinging tired punches at each other. Spaces opened up and mistakes became more frequent. With so much to have happened in the match, it felt like it had gone on for far longer than it had. Southampton's first good chance of the half fell after two minutes when K. Tonks played in Curtis, but the ball was gathered by Amo-Donkor before Curtis could get the shot away. The Aztecs were then lucky not to be 3-2 down only twenty seconds later, when McGreavy played in Salas beyond Moody, who fortunately shot right at Salyer. The threat of a Bloomsbury goal reared its head shortly after, when a long ball forward was evaded by both Sanchez and Sayler, and fortunately came back out off the post, saving much embarrassment.
Bloomsbury were now starting to edge it. Their next chance came three minutes in when Sanchez received the ball in the D unmarked, but thankfully fluffed her shot wide of the near post. Sayler immediately threw to Bekah Tonks, who held up, spun, and had her shot blocked for a corner. The resulting corner saw the ball played to Moody, who had her shot blocked too.
Southampton's next big chance fell to Kayleigh Tonks. Bekah Tonks intercepted a Bloomsbury kick-in, and Moody played the ball to K. Tonks, who under pressure from Moffat, and with Amo-Donkor rushing out, under hit a shot, which was easily saved. Divina Alo Ilolo next came close for the Aztecs, being sent forward from an excellent R. Tonks pass, but took the ball too far past Amo-Donkor, and sent her shot wide when trying to shoot off-balance, and lost a shoe in the process.
Southampton were awarded a free-kick with twelve minutes remaining and the score still 2-2 for a foul on Kayleigh Tonks. She took the kick, laying it off to her sister, who shot wide. Bloomsbury went straight up the other end and took the lead. McGreavy's attempted pass was cut out by Maidment, and very fortunately for Bloomsbury, ricocheted back to her off Kayleigh Tonks, allowing her to finish from close range past Sayler, to give Bloomsbury the lead.
With the desperation increasing, Southampton lost the ball immediately from the kick-off, and Bloomsbury nearly increased their lead. Salas would have found McGreavy on the edge of the D, if it wasn't for an excellent recovery by Alo Ilolo to clear for a corner. The Aztecs continued to press, and almost created another chance when K. Tonks blocked a kick-in. The ball spun to Maidment, who gathered the ball on the edge of the D, and was immediately taken out by Amo-Donkor from behind, who got to the ball, but completely wiped out Maidment in the process, in one of those tackles that perhaps only keepers can get away with. The Aztecs called for a timeout and insisted upon more directness, to bombard the Bloomsbury defence with balls in behind. The press continued, and the game was still end to end, with neither team making a series of consecutive passes.
Bloomsbury's next chance came with just over eight minutes remaining, when McGreavy went on the dribble, and had her high shot tipped over the bar by Sayler. Bloomsbury had their fourth goal only seconds later. Salas laid it off to McGreavy for a shot, who fluffed it to Sanchez, who had been neglected by her marker at the far post, only to mis hit her shot beyond Sayler from close range and extend the lead to two goals.
It should really have been 5-2 only thirty seconds later. Southampton lost the ball in attack, Bloomsbury countered, Sanchez played a great ball to McGreavy, who had made an excellent run beyond the Aztecs defence. Sayler provided a great reaction save to prevent the first shot, and then McGreavy hit the rebound just over the bar, perhaps put off by Alo Ilolo recovering to the goal line, and using all five feet of her height to make herself big and cover the goal. The game was getting faster, and the mistakes more frequent. Southampton countered and nearly scored twenty seconds later, when Broughton made a tackle, and R. Tonks played in Curtis, with Amo-Donkor coming out quickly to block the shot well.
Amo-Donkor came up strong again, when K. Tonks got in behind the defence, and was supplied by Maidment, for the keeper to make a great point blank save. Bloomsbury defended deeper and deeper, frustrating the Aztecs, limiting chances. It paid off for them with five minutes to go when they made it 5-2. Sayler came out of the goal to help create an overload, but the connection between Moody and K. Tonks failed, leading Sanchez to roll the ball into an open net from distance, effectively securing the win for Bloomsbury.
Bloomsbury called a timeout, in which they called for a no-nonsense approach to defending. It's hard to imagine they expected Southampton to switch off as they did, and allow Moffat to run free, untracked through the Aztecs defence. McGreavy's excellent vision and execution supplied the scoop pass, putting Moffat through on goal. She poked it past Sayler to make it 6-2, adding insult to injury.
Bloomsbury dug in and defended so well in the last four minutes that Southampton only had one real scoring opportunity, which was a right-footed shot hit left of the goal from Bekah Tonks. The seconds ticked away as the hope slowly died. A woeful second half performance from the Aztecs gave Bloomsbury the opportunity to come back into the game and grab the three points.
Watching Rebekah Tonks every week, it's easy to forget how special a player she is. Voted as our player of the match, she contributed to both our goals being scored, producing magic on both occasions.
Watch the highlights back here.
View the whole match below.
The scores from the day of games.
Birmingham WLV 5 v 4 Bolton
Bloomsbury 6 v 2 Southampton Aztecs
London Helvecia 9 v 1 Worcester
Manchester 5 v 2 University of Liverpool
This is how the table stands as we head into the final regular season game.
The Aztecs go into the last match rooted to the bottom of the table. The league appears to have split into a top three and a bottom five. Remember that the top four will compete to be crowned national champions, and the bottom four will go into a relegation playoff, which will include Bedford from the South, and Cheshire from the North. A win or draw can make all the difference. The Aztecs are now mathematically condemned to the relegation playoff, as Bolton play Bloomsbury, meaning one or both of those teams will pick up points that will put them too far ahead of Southampton, should the Aztecs get a win against Worcester. While the points are tight, what has let the Aztecs down is the margins at which they lose. Bolton and Liverpool are great examples of only losing their games by a goal or two, hanging on and staying in games.
The final games look like this:
Southampton Aztecs v Worcester: Worcester still have a legitimate chance of making the top four. It would require Bolton to lose against or draw with Bloomsbury, and for Worcester to beat Southampton and maintain their +8 goal difference when compared to Bloomsbury. Southampton could still finish fifth, but this only happens by beating Worcester by an eight goal margin, something the Aztecs have only done once. A draw won't be enough for Worcester, but would see Southampton move into 7th, providing that Helvecia beat Liverpool. Every point, and every goal counts, as it could mean an easier run in the playoffs, however every team at this level will provide a difficult test.
Bloomsbury v Bolton: Bolton have to win to guarantee fourth place, and hope, as much as we will also be hoping, that Worcester do not close that +11 goal difference with a resounding victory over Southampton. To make the top four, Bloomsbury would need to beat Bolton by a ten goal margin, and hope the Aztecs can prevent Worcester from getting the win.
Birmingham WLV v Manchester: It is possible for both of these teams to pip Helvecia into first place, which would require Liverpool pulling off the unexpected and beating the champions. Something nobody has been able to do this year or last year. It's more likely that this game, in effect, will be a dress-rehearsal for the semi-finals. It will decide who finishes second and third, with second and third then playing each other in the playoffs the following week.
London Helvecia v University of Liverpool: Liverpool have put in solid performances in every game, with their biggest loss only being a margin of three goals. Unfortunately for them, they too are mathematically condemned to the playoffs with Southampton. As the final game of the day, Helvecia will already know the task that awaits them. If Manchester and Birmingham draw, Helvecia are guaranteed first place. If either Manchester or Birmingham win, but with a small margin, it will mean Helvecia just have to avoid defeat, and will already know which of Bolton, Worcester, or Bloomsbury they will face in the semi-finals next week.
The playoffs are more simple than they sound. We'll try to explain as best we can below:
Championship Playoffs - Positions 1-4.
7th May (Hartpury College): First v Fourth, Second v Third
Third Place Playoff 14th May (Loughborough): Semi final 1 loser v Semi final 2 loser
21st May (Walsall): Semi final 1 winner v Semi final 2 winner
Relegation Playoffs - Positions 5-8 + the North and South 1st place teams (Bedford and Cheshire).
Group A: Fifth, Eighth, ??? Group B: Sixth, Seventh, ???
??? are TBD by a draw, meaning that Bedford and Cheshire have a 50:50 chance of being put into each group.
7th May (Hartpury College): Fifth v ???, Sixth v ??? 14th May (Loughborough): Eighth v ???, Seventh v ??? 21st May (Derby): Fifth v Eighth, Sixth v Seventh
Hope that helps!
Enjoy the photos below!
With the great work that the league are doing, and the excellent people within the clubs up and down the country, it's great to see that we're starting to have an effect, and hopefully being a force for good in the world. We know we have fans that tune in to watch from around the world, as well as a few that make appearances in person. We really want futsal to grow and become a more prominent sport in England, and we really want there to be more opportunities for female players to play and compete. Thanks for coming to see us, thanks for watching our games, thanks for checking us out on social media, and thanks for buying merchandise.
If you want our official Adidas kit, get yourself over to KitLocker.
If you would like other Aztecs merchandise, go to Spreadshirt.
Our next game is at Wolverhampton University on Monday the 2nd of May. It's an early one starting at 9:15 and will be on BT Sport. Some futsal will go well with your bank holiday breakfast.