The 1st ever Football Aid International between England and Italy was played at the Boleyn Ground and there was certainly a fantastic atmosphere for those watching. The 1st half was a display of some quality defending by both sides, with the attackers having a frustrating day at the office. However, the 2nd half was a different story, certainly for England’s Dave Wilkinson who grabbed a 6 min hat-trick and a 4th before the end of the game. It was all over by the time Italy’s Paul Short scored a stunner, which was certainly a contender for Goal of the Season.
Date: Tuesday 13th May 2014
Venue: The Boleyn ground
England vs Italy
Match Officials: Steve Daly,Gordon Manning, Mark Mellor and Mark Taylor
Legends: James Beattie and Luca Franchini
After both teams had sung their hearts out to the respective National Anthems the Italian team kicked off, kitted out in the World Cup Azzuri Blue strip and kicking from left to right and it didn’t take long for the Italians to take the lead. With just 8 mins on the clock winger James Leeson got down the left side and to the by-line before playing in a low ball across the box. It bounced about around the 6 yard line before centre forward Matthew Zacharoli could get a toe on it to poke it home and give the Italian team the lead (0-1).
However it wasn’t long before the team with the three lions on their shirts almost got themselves back into the game. A great run down the right from Steven Haydon saw the No 7 play a delightful through ball into striker John Day’s run. The No 9 came ever so close, but his shot narrowly missed the goal, passing wide to the left.
However their pressure later paid off when No 9 John Day’s low effort flew into the corner of the goal to level the game after 23 mins. It came about after fellow forward Dave Wilkinson played a ball across the box for the run of No 6 Tony Hine. Unfortunately for the centre mid, the ball passed by him but luckily it also met the run of attacker Day who struck the ball cleanly into the bottom left corner (1-1).
Back and forth the lead went, and the Italians took the lead again on the half hour mark courtesy of a header from that man Zacharoli again. Winger Paul Short pinched the ball down in the right corner and played it back to supporting full back Neil Geeling. The No 2 played in a high ball towards the back post where the No 11 Matthew Zacharoli smartly headed the ball across the keeper and into the far corner (1-2).
At half time there was very little between the two sides, with both teams taking the clear-cut chances they had been afforded but neither managing to create anything more than half chances otherwise. This was because of the tight back line that both sides had demonstrated which was hard to break down for the attackers. A brilliant brace from Zacharoli separated the two teams, with Day responding well for the England Home team, but the 2nd half was still to come and there was everything to play for.
Half Time: England 1 - 2 Italy
In the England dressing room, Manager James Beattie spoke to his players telling them to squeeze up and pressure the Italian defence as they tried to pass it out from the back a lot. He also said they needed more communication and composure in midfield. Across the corrider Italian coach Luca Franchini was asking for more of the same from the Italian team after their impressive 1st half.
The England team raced out of the blocks in the 2nd half, taking less than five mins to square up the game at two each. No 9 John Day picked the ball up 30 yards from goal before sliding in a ball to forward partner Dave Wilkinson. The big No 11 shrugged off the defender before beautifully slipping it through goalie Jonathan Heywood’s legs and into the back of the net to tie the game up (2-2).
Three mins later and the England team were gifted the lead by an uncharacteristic error at the back by the Italian team. A long ball from midfield was deflected and was heading out for an England corner only for keeper Jonathan Heywood to slide and keep it in. Unfortunately for the No 1 his effort to limit danger fell straight to winger Alex Veitch who squared the ball to Dave Wilkinson who had an open goal to tuck the ball into the net for his 2nd of the game (3-2).
The Italian team began to implode as a min later the England team had scored again. Full back Dean Thorpe played a brilliant through ball into centre forward John Day, under pressure from the defence he lost the opportunity to score himself, however luckily it fell straight to strike partner Dave Wilkinson who thundered a low shot across the goalie and into the back of the net to complete an incredible 6min hat-trick (4-2)!
Although being on the back foot for much of the 2nd half, the Italians gained an opportunity to get one back on the hour mark. No 3 Paul Zacaroli chipped a ball up to the edge of the box where it bounced around having taken a deflection before England No 6 Tony Hine cleared it into the air. However, Hine’s attempted clearance fell towards his goalie who believed it not to be a pass back and so picked it up. After some confusion and deliberation the referee gave the Italians an indirect free-kick as he believed it was a pass back. The free-kick was chipped to the back post where it was cleared behind for a corner.
After this the Italian side saw a period of sustained pressure and were almost rewarded for their efforts 5 mins later. Winger Paul Short made a brilliant solo run from the centre of the park past two England players before taking a left footed shot at the edge of the box. His effort, however, was well palmed down by goalie Geoffrey Thorpe but the ball rebounded straight to predatory striker Stefano Ambrosetti who couldn’t miss from 5 yards out. To his disappointment though, the No 9 looked up to see the linesman’s flag raised.
Straight from the goalie’s kick the Home team were in again thanks to some delightful play in midfield with a string of passes pulling the Italians apart. Centre mid Matthew Salter dinked a ball with the outside of his boot through to attacker Dave Wilkinson. The prolific No 11 hit a volley first time across the goal and into the bottom right-hand corner. The deadly striker's 4th goal coming with 65 mins on the clock (5-2).
The England side couldn’t resist the pressure that had been put on them by the Italians in the 2nd half though and conceded a goal to a wonder strike from winger Paul Short. An Italian corner was headed clear and was picked up by full back Neil Geeling who played it back to centre half Dean Twyman. The No 4 floated a clever ball back into the box and what happened next was what the fans pay to watch! Short controlled the ball on his thigh and did a couple of keepy-ups before turning and scoring with an outrageous volley. A definite Goal of the Season contender (5-3)!!
However England were keen to restore their three-goal lead and they did so swiftly. Full back Dean Thorpe played a long, curving ball from the halfway line into the path of attacking midfielder Matthew Salter who elegantly rounded the keeper before slotting the ball home after 70 mins (6-3).
With 5 mins to go the England team had the best chance of the last 15 mins of play though striker John Day. The forward found himself through on goal and drove a low shot towards keeper Jonathan Heywood. However, Heywood matched it and got down low to his right, pushing the ball round the post, saving his team from a certain goal.
There was however, some late, late drama as winger Paul Short was brought down in the box as he was cutting inside towards goal. Centre Half Mike Burke stepped up and unfortunately for the defensive stalwart he blazed his effort high and handsomely into the stand. It certainly wasn't a reflection on his overall play, as the Italian defender had been excellent throughout.
Burke’s penalty was the last kick of the ball as the England team ran away victors at the end of our 3rd hugely exciting game of the day. After hearing Beattie’s words at half-time, the England team followed up by pressing high and forcing errors. This resulted in them scoring a quick-fire 3 goals which took them into the lead and into a comfortable position. Quality finishing by the England team was what gave them the edge, even though Paul Short stole the headlines with his stunning volley. As well as their attackers, the England defence of Dean Thorpe and Richard Leeson stood firm, shutting out their opponents for the majority of the game.
Full time: England 6 - 3 Italy
Man of the Match (England): Dave Wilkinson
Man of the Match (Italy): Paul Short
Moment of the Match: Geoffrey Thorpe
England Team: Geoffrey Thorpe, Kevin Banks, Dean Thorpe, Richard Leeson (C), Robert Thorpe, Tony Hine, Steven Haydon, Kevin Robertson, John Day, Matthew Salter, Dave Wilkinson, Mark Darby, Scott Whensley
England Manager: James Beattie
England Mascot: Ryan Jack Darby
Italy Team: Jonathan Heywood, Neil Geeling, Paul Zacaroli, Dean Twyman, Mike Burke, Umberto Guidoni, Paul Short, James Leeson, Stefano Ambrosetti (C), Walter Schiro, Matthew Zacharoli, Simon Edwards, Alex Veitch
Italy Manager: Luca Franchini