Otago Academy v Real Sociedad – Premier Section Match Report

Otago Academy took on Spanish giants Real Sociedad in the evening’s match at Scroggy Road. The Spaniards started the game brightly partly inspired by their bright orange kit as they rattled the woodwork with three minutes gone when Juan Garces rose highest to head goal wards . Otago were confident of causing yet another Milk Cup surprise after their victory over Alset Columbia on match day one.

Twenty minutes in, Sociedad were denied by a fine reaction save from Fergus Connolly as he tipped away a Juan Uriartz strike from just outside the area. Otago were holding firm limiting the Spanish side to any real clear cut chances. It was the New Zealanders however who nearly took a shock lead through a Kai Partz curling shot from thirty yards out.

Benet Eizagirre had a super chance to put the side from the North of Spain ahead as he went on the counter attack – he skipped a few challenges to get one on one with Connolly but rushed his shot firing over the bar when well placed to score . As the interval approached Otago were hanging in there, keeping their shape defending superbly frustrating their Spanish counter parts .

Half time score was Otago 0 – 0 Real Sociedad.

Otago carved open the first chance of the second half as substitute Anton Fitzgerald (who was superb in Monday’s match) poked the ball goalwards only to be blocked by Unai Rementerio . As the rain lashed down the pitch became slippery causing havoc for the Spaniards as they kept losing their footing . Sociedad should have taken the lead when big striker Jokin Gabilondo worked his way into the box but could only hit a tame shot at Connolly. Shortly after Sociedad were celebrating but these turned out to be premature as Eizagirre fired low into the net only for it to be ruled out for offside . Fergus Connolly kept the game at deadlock as he made a terrific recovery save. The Kiwi keeper looked surely beaten as the ball deflected off Jack Short, only for Connolly to somehow race back to the goal line and claim the loose ball . Connolly was in inspired form and came to the rescue once again as he clawed away a shot destined for the top corner from Juan Urriate.

Otago however nearly took a shock lead through the outstanding Anton Fitzgerald when he picked up a Ben Happs pass to be set clear only for his powerful strike saved by the legs of Inaki Auzmendi. With fifteen minutes to go Sociedad cranked up the tempo but Otago stood like mountains to stop them getting through their defence . As time ran out it was that man Connolly who saved the New Zealanders once again with an incredible one handed save to deny Gabilondo a certain goal when it seemed like his effort was going to creep inside the near post .

Otogo were playing like lions, wearing their hearts on their sleeves and fighting for every ball.  With seven minutes to play it was Fitzgerald who had a chance to steal it for the underdogs as his world class footwork saw him get into the box, but his shot was saved by the flying Auzmendi.

Otago the underdogs held on against the Spanish giants to cause a real upset. They have certainly gained new supporters here in Northern Ireland as they played fantastically well – a real credit to their families and coaches .

Match Report by Joshua Bunting