KING’S are on the cusp of winning their first Varsity in four years and only their second of all time after KCL Football Club pulled off two huge upsets at the Champion Hill Stadium last night to help King’s into a 7-3 lead over UCL.
Day 4 of the 2015 London Varsity series saw Football make its debut in the tournament, and it was to be a night to remember at the home of Dulwich Hamlet FC as both King’s sides built on wins in Hockey, Medic Hockey and Men’s Lacrosse to extend KCL’s lead in the series.
The first match of the evening was the 5.30pm kick off in the Women’s football. King’s Women have had a season of rebuilding this season and were huge underdogs on paper against a UCL side which has cemented its dominance at the top of London University women’s football after winning the LUSL league and the LUSL cup the previous two years running.
However, before the game captain, Romina Calatayud, had said the side were ready to ‘fight for King’s’ in order to try to pull off an upset, and fight they did… Most of the match was played in the KCL half as the King’s side set themselves up to absorb the UCL pressure and try to hurt them on the counter.
This tactic worked well, despite the two UCL strikers occasionally breaking free and forcing KCL keeper, Amy French, into some athletic saves and clearances.
King’s main threat was using striker Pheobe Davis’ pace and breaking on the counter, but chances were few and far between and the sides went into the break locked at 0-0.
After the break the UCL players visibly stepped off the pressure, and the match was played far more in a scrappy battle in the middle of the park. French still pulled off a number of saves, and UCL seemed to have the lead after their Number 11 headed goal wards only for King’s to clear off the line.
And so the ref blew the final whistle and it was to be left to the lottery of penalties to decide the tie. King’s were first up and converted to make it 1-0, and the pressure was ranked up when French saved the first UCL penalty.
But Whittaker missed for KCL next, before UCL failed to take advantage and hit the bar.
MISS! It’s gone over and look out the international space station as that is FLYING over!!!!! KCL still lead 2-1 — Roar News (@Roar_News) March 9, 2015
Next up Chandler converted to make it 2-0 to KCL before UCL scored to make it 2-1 and King’s hit the post to leave UCL a way back into the penalty shoot out. But up step undoubted woman of the match, Amy French, and the rest, as they say, is history.
She saved the next UCL penalty and stepped up to convert the final penalty and seal one of the biggest upsets in London Varsity history as KCLWFC won 3-1 on penalties.
KCLWFC is only a relatively new club in the world of university sports, and this victory will be talked about for years to come at their home ground in Berrylands. A famous win which great things to come will surely be built upon.
With the women having already sealed a victory for the travelling King’s fans and KCL leading the Varsity series 6-3, one could have been forgiven to suspecting KCL Men’s to step their foot off the pedal in their tie.
Certainly they were only slightly lesser underdogs than their sister club, with UCL playing in no less than three divisions higher than KCL in the BUCS league.
— KCLSU (@kclsu) March 9, 2015
However, King’s have only lost one in six matches and fancied their chances. But the match had only just kicked off and the King’s men were only just finding their way into the game when UCL got lucky from an inswinging corner which looped over the head of KCL number one Sam Talbot and straight into the far corner of the goal.
Yet King’s were quick to respond as a beautiful pass almost from kick off opened up the UCL defence and King’s talisman and top goalscorer Stan Abyszkin slotted home.
After this initial flurry of goals the game settled into a more low-tempo groove as the first half wore on, with Stan going close again for King’s whilst the referee turned down a number of penalty appeals.
Half-time came about with the scores still locked at one apiece. The second half started in a scrappy fashion with neither side looking willing enough to take the risk and win the match.
However, this all changed after KCL striker Nnamdi Odum latched onto a through ball out of nowhere, rounded the UCL keeper and slotted home to send the Strand fans into raptures with King’s leading 2-1.
King’s were now in front with their tail up and were only denied a two goal cushion after a couple of well worked free kicks were frantically cleared from the UCL box.
Then came a moment that will live long in Varsity history, as UCL won a dubious penalty out of nothing. Up stepped UCL number 12, with the weight of a 186-year old rivalry on his shoulders.
But it was to be Keats, not Bentham, Reggie, not Phineas and the Strand, not Gower Street, that won out as he blasted it way over the bar.
— Reggie the Lion (@KCLSU_Reggie) March 9, 2015
And that was the chance, as for the rest of the game King’s slowed the pace down and held off successive waves of UCL attack. The final whistle eventually blew and King’s fans invaded the pitch in celebratory scenes that the Varsity Series was made for.
A great night for King’s Men as they joined the Women in pulling of a huge cup upset and securing a vital point for their university on the road to Varsity glory. King’s now lead the series 7-3, in what is a race to 11 points to secure the overall competition.
Next up is Basketball, Volleyball and Netball in a huge night for Varsity at the Sports Dock in East London where 5 vital points are up for grabs.