Level 1 won the first ever JMU Journalism World Cup 4-2 on penalties, after a thrilling 5-5 draw with Level 2 forced a shoot-out for the title at IM Marsh.
Hugh Currell’s late equaliser was the tenth goal of a pulsating encounter and meant the tournament was settled on spot kicks. John Mathews missed the first penalty for Level 2 and they could not recover from there, with James Beard staying cool to seal victory.
Level 2 had led 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 but failed to hold onto their advantage as Level 1 began to dominate the second half, with captain Liam Deveney a bulky force in midfield, defying his rapidly advancing years to influence his younger team-mates.
As ever, the game was played in good spirits, despite the importance of the contest, and several third years were available to play for either team. Level 3 captain Gary Maiden, Irish centre-back Hugh O’Connell and his defensive partner Chris Shaw, plus sought-after goalkeeper Danny Masters were picked by the respective captains before kick-off in a tense stand-off when they were lined up against a wall for selection.
In a game that had it all, the weather played its part too – the
match kicked off in bright sunshine but rain was pouring
down before half-time and the conditions varied throughout.
An early goal for the Level 2 team set the tone of the match,
with a goalkeeping error allowing James Hamling to put his
side in front with a neat finish from a tight angle.
Hugh Currell scored his first goal of the match to level the
scores but the second years quickly regained the lead
courtesy of a left-footed strike by skipper Tom Broughton.
Flamboyant forward Anders Mjaaland made it 3-1 with a tidy
side-footed effort before Adam Smith again reduced arrears,
as the goals kept coming thanks to a mixture of impressive
attacking and poor defending.
Gary Maiden, on loan from Level 3, restored the two-goal
cushion shortly before half-time with a vicious volley that the
goalkeeper could not handle. Broughton would have been
confident that his team could see out the second-half with that 4-2 lead, but the next 45 minutes were as eventful as the first.
Veteran Deveney rallied his team at half-time with an inspirational team-talk and switch in personnel, and was rewarded immediately. David Downie’s looped cross was fumbled by goalkeeper Masters, who was left embarrassed when the ball rolled into the net through his legs, as laughter rang out around Aigburth.
Momentum was now with Level 1 and the referee then awarded a penalty, presenting the chance to make it 4-4. Chris Shaw was given responsibility for the spot-kick but he saw his badly misdirected effort saved by Masters, who instantly made up for his mistake. Shaw struggled to compose himself afterwards, suffering the indignity of going from hero last week to zero this week, and was sympathetically substituted by Deveney shortly after.
A second goal for talented Mjaaland, who also went close with an acrobatic overhead kick, made the scoreline 5-3 and looked to have finished the game and secured the title for Level 2, but the first years refused to lie down. A second penalty was awarded, and with Shaw relieved of his duties, Smith showed how to do it, scoring his second of the game with a confident conversion.
Level 1 were now piling on the pressure and committing players forward, and finally levelled ten minutes before the end when Currell powered home after a scramble in the area.
Both teams had chances to score a winning goal and avoid penalties in the final minutes but neither could find a sixth. Mathews had a glorious opportunity for Level 2 in stoppage time but his agonising groin injury meant he could not outpace defender Downie, who prevented the self-styled pantomime villain from finishing into an empty net, with the goalkeeper stranded upfield.
Once penalty takers were chosen, both squads waited on the halfway line as the shoot-out took place. Deveney set the standard with a cool penalty and his team were soon 3-0 ahead and edging towards glory. Maiden and Broughton scored for Level 2 but Beard tucked his penalty past Masters to spark Level 1's celebrations.
After two tight affairs to begin the tournament, this goalfest was a fitting end to the inaugural JMU Journalism World Cup and Level 1 are already confident of defending their title next year.
The glorious conclusion to this epic quest has already sealed its place in the JMU Journalism calendar, and future generations will do well to live up to this incredible tournament debut.
World Cup 2010
Level 1 2-0 Level 3
Level 2 2-0 Level 3
Level 1 5-5 Level 2*
* (Level 1 won 4-2 on penalties)
W L D F A Pts
Level 1 1 0 1 7 5 4*
Level 2 1 0 1 7 5 4
Level 3 0 2 0 0 4 0
World Cup Final in pictures
Hugh Currell (in green) makes it 5-5; Level 1 team celebrates after their World Cup success (Pics Jill Mathews)
By JMU Journalism Sport
JMU Journalism World Cup 2010