consolation goal

“Do you want to risk aggravating the injury and knock yourself back for another two weeks, or chance it?  No, leave it for tomorrow then, we should be ok.”  This is what my football team boss told me over several ales on Friday evening.  The following morning I received a text message saying someone had dropped out.  Could I play?

The first half hour I felt tight and paranoid about seriously extending.  Up against a well put together striker: swift, slight and skilful, if mercifully not large or physical.  Those opening minutes of needing to press and chase saw me reluctantly obey still tight feeling, cold legs.  I’d stretched and warmed as much as possible beforehand, but they still warned against going flat out. 

We were three goals down inside half an hour.  Towards the end of the first half and into the second they slowly heated, became malleable.  Coaxing increased pace, I became confident the troublesome member wouldn’t buckle.  Occasional forages forward from centre back encouraged.  A dangerously lofted ball into the box caused panic, a speculative long distance effort had the power without the direction.

Although it was long over as a contest, towards the end of the game I ventured forward more frequently, feeling the attacking appetite and confidence return.  We were pushing, they were sitting deep, confident of suppressing any threat.

We sensed the opportunity to reduce the deficit, but little seemed to be reaching our strikers from the midfield.  Collecting a rapid return pass from our right back midway into the opponents half, I darted towards the penalty area and into space, still not closed down.  Another touch to settle, approaching the far right side of the penalty area, thirty yards out, I swung hard.  Distance meant power’s priority over accuracy.  The connection felt good but proved too strong as it faded and dipped a short distance over the crossbar and far post.

Then we attacked down the left, the gap of space in the middle ever apparent.  I jogged into it as our striker received the ball on the left hand side of the penalty area.  He niftily jigged between two defenders as I screamed at him to release the pass.  Cleverly committing a third to the challenge, he then squared it across into the space with a toe poke.  One touch to settle, twenty five yards out, right side of the penalty area: a few yards closer and more central than the opportunity before.  Part of my brain must have instinctively decided I could prioritise accuracy over power and chance a side foot.  It’s not a decision I remember making.  Contact was true and the power perfect.  I dodged a late onrushing defender to see the ball appear to first arc outside the rod of the post before curling back inside, little to no margin between post and ball.  The goalkeeper dived half heartedly, slipping to his knees on realising that he couldn’t get close. 

7-1!

Having never scored a goal as good as this in a competitive match and averaging one goal a season at best, I wanted to celebrate.  But I wasn’t able.  Firstly down to shock.  It had actually gone in.  It was legal.  The goal, a very nice goal, was given.  I scored it.  I fucking scored it.  I myself me, was responsible for that sumptuous strike.  Discreetly jubilant fist to self in private celebration and a wry smile.  That was all. 

Then the realisation of its complete futility.  We’d been battered for most of the game, several early goals probably my fault.  Mine meant nothing.  It reduced that deficit by a single goal, making the score 7-1.  We trotted back to our half for the kick-off, chuckling between ourselves like I’d just revealed I was fluent in Chinese.

Even so, that rarest of sensations, seeing it curl inside the post and glide against the netting: a sweet and precious thing.

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