Junior Section: First Choice Soccer 0-1 Southampton
Young Saints seal victory with late strike
Southampton initially started the brighter of the two sides, with Tobi Ademiju cutting inside before firing an effort that was well help by Nikola Curcija in the First Choice goal. Vincente Besujien was lively for the young Saints, also having a shot from distance, which was expertly tipped onto the top of the crossbar by Curcija.
Isiah Jones was next to try his luck, running inside off the right flank, but his shot bobbled harmlessly wide. Some neat play between Jones and Joel Bagan allowed Luka Prso to create space, however the midfielders shot was over the crossbar.
Besujien was driving forward from midfield, causing problems for First Choice players. He strode forward, trying his luck, however his drive was inches past the post.
This seemed to spark First Choice Soccer into the game, and they soon had their first chance of note when Brandon Brackett powered into the Saints area, with Alex Rutter having to be alert to tip the ball around the post.
They had another opportunity soon after, when Dan Bradshaw was dispossessed just outside his own penalty area. Will Pucek latched onto the loose ball, however he fired straight at Rutter.
Prso had a great opportunity to put Southampton into the lead just before half time. The midfielder was left unmarked after the ball was knocked back into the penalty area when the initial corner was cleared, however Prso could only head over and will be disappointed with his effort.
After the break First Choice seemed more confident, flying out of the blocks. Kairo Coore found himself racing towards goal, and he cleverly knocked it around Rutter, however a stunning challenge from Saints defender, Dare Olufunwa, prevented Coore from knocking the ball into an unguarded goal. Makhi Williams was next to have an attempt on goal, however to was straight at Rutter.
The game began to open up as both sides chased the victory, and Besujien fired over from the edge of the box after some good work by Jones. First Choice felt aggrieved not to have a spot kick when Preston Price’s well controlled volley was cleared off the goal line by Olufunwa, however the referee adjudged it the Saints player had not used his hand.
Southampton substitute, Ciaran Brennan, looked lively when he came on in the second half. Brennan nearly forced the opener when he poked the ball through the defender’s legs before firing an effort straight at Curcija. Curcija was called into action moments later, making a brilliant save when Ademiju latched onto Jones’ cross.
Oscar Brown had an effort wide for First Choice, however it was the Saints who made the breakthrough with little time remaining. The impressive Jones chipped in a teasing cross, which evaded Curcija and allowed Brennan to head home at the back post. It was a cruel goal to concede for First Choice, especially for Curcija who had made some sublime stops throughout.
Southampton were relieved when the final whistle blew, meaning they advance to the next stage.
Report by Andy Gray (@AndyGrayNI)