Jesus Edge Fitz in Cuppers Thriller

Jesus beat Fitz in a Blues-filled Cuppers Football blockbuster. Read more here.

Jesus 4-2 Fitz (AET)

Jesus today sank Fitz in a thrilling Cuppers tie. The win, which came in extra time, surely makes Jesus the favourites to win this year’s competition outright.

Despite the incredible number of university-level players on show, the game began scrappily. Neither team was able to assert itself on proceedings; Fitz, in particular, looked sloppy. The home supporters speculated that their college’s lack of a first team kit (which had allegedly been stolen) might have had something to do with it.

Either way, it was Jesus who seized the early initiative with a nicely-worked team effort. A well-weighted cross from the left wing saw the ball find the feet of Blues captain Michael Johnson. Johnson made no mistake, slotting the ball home to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Fitz lacked presence up front; though they were winning the midfield battle for periods during the half, they struggled to really convert those chances into genuine goal-scoring opportunities. Fitz’s Bulmore did see his follow-up shot from a free-kick come agonisingly close to wiping out the deficit, striking the post before going out for a goal-kick.

Photo: Tim Sherrington.

As Jesus went searching for the goal that would double their advantage, graduate student Paul Avery went down cheaply in the box. The referee duly showed him a yellow card, even as Avery was still on the ground moaning.

Whatever the Fitz camp said during the interval seemed to do the trick; the boys in blue came out all guns blazing. It wasn’t long before their increased intensity was rewarded. A cross found Harry Gamsu at the far post, which the Fitz forward slammed into the back of the net, bringing his team back to level pegging at 1-1.

Photo: Tim Sherrington

Solid defending from both sides saw the scores remain level. Gwyther and Jesus captain Micael Canavan kept Fitz’s Kerrigan quiet, while Johnson and Stetler ensured that Kalil Rouse’s adventurous runs down the right flank went unrewarded.

It was, however, a defensive error that led to Fitz’s second goal. Jesus keeper Chris Ellis made a weak pass to left-back Gerrett, which Fitz’s Bulmore intercepted. Bulmore bought himself some space before rifling the ball home to make it 2-1 to Fitz.

Jesus pressed hard for an equalizer, but were frustrated as several chances went over the bar. Fitz shot-blocker James Gillingham also made some excellent saves to deny Laakso and Johnson.

Just as the raucous Fitz support on the touch-line were baying for the final whistle, forward Aki Laakso flicked the ball on to Johnson, whose return pass struck the arm of Stetler in the penalty area. A  feisty on-field confrontation quickly developed as players from both sides massed around the referee. The Fitz players argued that it was a simple case of ball to hand, while the Jesus boys predictably saw it as a clear-cut penalty. Ultimately, however, the referee’s decision to award a controversial penalty stood; it was left to Max Wolke to restrain his team, shouting “Come on boys, he’s not going to change his mind now!”.

It was Blues skipper Michael Johnson who stepped up to take the spot-kick. Seemingly impervious to the pressure-cooker atmosphere, Johnson struck the ball with power and precision to level the scores at 2-2 after 90 minutes and send the contest to extra-time.

Photo: Tim Sherrington

Despite some excellent creative play, the scores remained level throughout the first half of extra-time. Hartley and Johnson both had shots saved, as Ellis and Gillingham put in a wonderful display of goal-keeping. A crunching tackle from Fitz’s Tom Johnson also ensured that a counter-attack led by Jesus’ Laakso came to nothing.

As the second half of extra-time began many on the sidelines were bracing themselves for a penalty shoot-out until Jesus’ Laakso popped up with a goal to make it 3-2 to the visitors with only 8 minutes on the clock. Fitz threw everything at Jesus, bossing the midfield through sterling work from Hartley and Wolke.

Tom Johnson then bravely went in for a 50-50 challenge, which left him injured and meant that Fitz had to play the last few minutes with only 10 men.

Jesus outnumbered Fitz as they surged on the break; the ball broke to Avery outside the box, who struck a venomous effort straight into the top-left corner, making it 4-2 to the visitors with less than 60 seconds to play. It was a shot that the keeper simply could not have stopped, a fitting ending to a pulsating Cuppers encounter.

After the game, Jesus captain Micael Canavan commented “2-2 at full-time was a fair result between two extremely strong sides. We were unlucky to concede from a set-piece and then a mistake but we’re glad to be through to the next round. Now we’re going to go all the way and win this competition!

Fitz midfielder Eddie Burrows noted that “today’s game was a real battle. We’re disappointed not to have won and the penalty decision was very dubious indeed. I guess we’ll just have to focus on climbing further up the league”.

The Tab’s Man of the Match: Dan Gwyther (Jesus)

For pictures from today’s game, click here.