FT: Cambridge United FC Futsal 3 – 6 Birmingham Futsal Club (HT: 2 – 1)
Sunday 1st October 2017 (11:30am ko)
Cambridge University Sports Centre
Goals – Justo Lopez (3)
Squad – Lino Ceby (GK), Chay Jakes (GK), Alberto Morcillo (C), Angel Antelo Martinez, Justo Lopez, Monty Bouttell, Toby Hardwick, Tim Henery, Vitalii Burnus, Inaki Prado, George Harlow, Greg Birch
Coach – Luis Mendonca
Sunday saw the opening fixtures of the new FA National Futsal Super League.
Cambridge United FC Futsal have enjoyed a rapid rise to the top tier of futsal in England. Just 2 seasons ago, the Us were crowned champions of Divison 2 Midlands and secured promotion to Super League North by winning the Midlands v North play offs whilst also reaching the Futsal FA Cup Semi Finals in Manchester. Last season saw United finish 4th in Super League North which secured their place in the inaugural, single, larger FA National Futsal League this season.
Sunday saw CUFC Futsal kick-off their season with a tough home game at the Cambridge University Sports Centre against last season’s Super League North Champions, Birmingham Futsal. Birmingham had won every game on their way to last season’s title, beating Cambridge home and away, so this was sure to be the sternest of challenges for the U’s.
Cambridge United fielded a squad comprising six experienced Europeans and six young English players, five of whom were 18 or younger.
The game was played in front of a good, vocal, partisan crowd at the excellent Cambridge University Sports Centre.
After a mixed pre-season and against such strong opposition, the U’s needed to be firing on all cylinders and they started the game brightly. Cambridge flew out of the blocks and were on the front foot from the off, catching the visitors somewhat cold. With less than 2 minutes on the clock, the U’s were rewarded with the first goal of the game when Monty Bouttell burst into space and his clever back heel found the onrushing Justo Lopez who made no mistake with a powerful finish. 1-0 to United.
United didn’t have to wait long to double their lead when a minute later it was that man Justo Lopez again with another pile-driver, teed up nicely by Angel Antelo Martinez, this time from a dead ball routine that Cambridge had been working on in pre-season. 2-0 to the U's.
Birmingham were rattled but recovered their composure and for the next 10 minutes the game ebbed and flowed and the crowd were treated to some great end to end futsal with both teams creating but ultimately failing to finish off chances. Some stout defending and in particular some heroics from U's stopper Lino Ceby kept the scoreline to 2-0 until Birmingham broke after a Cambridge corner and this time made no mistake.
This was quickly followed by Cambridge reaching 5 fouls for the half. Knowing that any subsequent foul would lead to a penalty, United Coach Luis Mendonca will have been pleased to see his charges defend with discipline to see out the first half with their lead intact. Half time and 2-1 to CUFC.
Cambridge started the second half as they had the first, dominating possession and chances. Half way through the second half the U’s failed to take advantage of two good 2-on-1 situations in quick succession and were immediately punished when Birmingham scored the equaliser from a well worked set piece routine that caught the U's defence flat-footed. All square at 2-2.
United responded immediately when Justo Lopez was crudely bundled over just to pick himself up and smash the resulting free kick past the Birmingham wall and keeper. 3-2 and advantage United again.
But the United lead wasn’t to last long when a long range Birmingham effort somehow crept past the U’s keeper. All square again at 3-3. Birmingham’s quality and depth of squad now started to tell and with 6 minutes remaining Birmingham took the lead from a good breakaway goal. Three minutes later and it was 5-3 to Birmingham when a shot was well blocked but unfortunately deflected into the path of another Birmingham player who made no mistake from close range.
With just 3 minutes to go and now finding themselves 2 goals behind, Cambridge ‘went fly’ which they did well without creating and finishing that elusive chance due to some excellent Birmingham defending. Cruelly, with 3 seconds left on the clock, Birmingham broke away again, always the risk of playing fly, to score a sixth.
An excellent game finishing 6-3 to Birmingham, which wasn’t perhaps a fair reflection of how the match unfolded, with their depth of experience and quality ultimately proving decisive. It was also a game played in a very competitive but good spirit, well officiated and enjoyed by all who came along to watch and support. The U’s will certainly be looking forward to the return fixture in January.
Coach Luis Mendonca and the CUFC squad will take this experience straight back into training for the next two weeks as they prepare for a tricky away game against Salisbury on Sunday 15th October. Cambridge and Salisbury, who won their opening fixture, have never met so it is sure to be an intriguing challenge but United will be aiming for the win and their first points of the new season to get off the mark in what will be an intensely competitive league.