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Ealing ride their luck, but emerge undefeated to retain championship in bad tempered clash

28 Feb 2017

League match – 24 February 2017

Ealing Independent College 1-1 DLD (A)

Team: Danial; Jamie; Lucas, Egli, Kai (Ramone), Hamza, Georges; Isaga

Goal: Georges

Tough, tense affairs are par for the course between these two fierce competitors. They both knew that coming into the game, which would effectively decide the destination of the 2016-2017 Independent Colleges Premier League of West London, their opponent would not budge an inch, and that any victory would need to be won with grit, hard work and determination. Ealing actually started the brighter of the two. Showing more desire form the off, Isaga fashioned himself a chance, but the DLD stopper dealt with it comfortably. Any sense that the whites had the upper hand dissipated around half way through the first period as DLD started to make some effective passing to complement their movement. An error by Jamie gifted the dark blues an opening which was passed up, while their number 9 stole in down the right, but shot directly at Danial. DLD’s best chance fell to the number 7 in dark blue, who was proving to be a handful for both the referee and Ealing. He made some space before pulling a gilt-edged chance wide.

The half descended into a slugfest of niggly fouls from both sides, with the referee struggling to encourage a flowing encounter. As he blew for half time with matters goalless, DLD still knew that they would need to win the match to have any chance of regaining their title won in 2014-2015, while Ealing had not enjoyed such a wonderful unbeaten campaign up to this point to give away their trophy, won in such a hard fought manner last season. Finding his side overrun in midfield, Ealing boss Allan Cairns made a tactical change of withdrawing Kai, who was finding it difficult to make an impact, for Ramone, making his first appearance since his red card against DLD B prior to Christmas. By bringing him into defence, this would free up Egli into supporting Hamza in central midfield in the hope of gaining more of a foothold in the match. Again a spate of fouls populated the half, with DLD enjoying the lion’s share of the territory and possession, whilst Ealing looked to hit their opponents on the break, bypassing midfield in an effort to find space for their front two of Georges and Isaga. Lucas found himself penalised on a number of occasions for slightly late challenges, as did captain Hamza, and midfield enforcer Egli.

It would take either a moment of magic or a mistake to break the deadlock it seemed, particularly when Danial made another outstanding stop, diving full stretch to divert a goal bound effort by the impressive DLD number 15 onto the post. Finally some overplaying in the middle by Hamza saw him robbed by DLD’s number 10 who struck a well-placed shot into the bottom left hand corner. The men in dark blue mobbed their central midfielder, and now it was Ealing who would have to chase the game. They had found making clear-cut chances hard to come by for the duration of the match and this did not change immediately despite their arrears. Gradually, openings started to present themselves however. A powerful shot by Hamza went just wide before an acute effort by Georges brought out a great stop from the DLD ‘keeper. The rebound bounced kindly to Egli who seemed odds on to restore parity but perhaps in an effort to ensure he kept the ball down, he drove his follow up effort directly at the keeper, even as he lay stranded on the ground.

Ealing supporters could have been forgiven for giving up hope at this point, but every title winning side needs luck, and a welcome slice of it fell to the men in white when Jamie made a heavy clearance which looped forward and struck the fence above the DLD goal. The rebound sat up nicely for Georges, who smashed a clinical half volley high and handsome in at the near post to send his teammates and the healthy travelling contingent of fans into a rapturous frenzy.

The rest of the match played out like a game of chess. Unwilling to give any opportunities away, Ealing started to fall deeper and deeper and dropped into the ultra defensive mode. Try as they could DLD could not force the clear opening they required to snatch a winner, potentially putting themselves in pole position to take the league title. The remaining minutes became dominated by fouls, which were often punctuated by clashing between players who had grown completely frustrated. The referee played overtime as chaotic scenes ensued towards the final whistle. When the official finally ended the contest, aggression spilled over into goading and posturing between the sides, the less spoken of here the better.

DLD can consider themselves extremely unlucky. They had dominated long periods of the match and were clearly the better footballing side on this tense evening. It also seems highly likely that they will end the season unbeaten, like Ealing, but rueing the one more draw that lead to their dropping of two points against Albemarle back in December. Nonetheless, one must applaud Ealing’s achievement in keeping their hands on the title. Though perhaps not as gifted as DLD, they are certainly no less effective and having dropped only six points all season, sit with an unassailable lead at the top. They have become the embodiment in many ways of the College that they attend, having gotten the very best out of the resources at their disposal. The whites showed tonight a never-say-die attitude and an absolute refusal to taste defeat, due largely to the commitment and complete dedication to leaving absolutely nothing on the pitch. The work ethic of the entire squad could not be faulted at any point in the entire season, and everyone who was involved from start to finish should look back on this season with pride.

Man of the match – The champions have Danial to thank for a superlative performance, where he handled and distributed well along with making some truly outstanding saves. There is no doubt that without him, they would not be celebrating another title.

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