By Alex Watson
Hampton U13As travelled to Alleyn’s School on 17 January knowing a win would pit them against Dulwich School in the ISFA semi final. On what can only be described as a beautiful day for football, the match kicked off with both teams knowing what was up for grabs for the victor.
Hampton started the stronger of the two teams, with Rio Felonov-Tzanev looking dangerous in the early stages, attempting to break through the Alleyn’s backline.
However, the U13As failed to create any clear cut chances and the first big opportunity of the game fell to Alleyn’s, with a hopeful delivery into the box glancing the post before being scrambled hastily away by the briefly ruffled Hampton defence.
Despite this, Hampton continued to push forward, unperturbed by the injury of central midfielder Finley Milner, who was replaced by Faris Salman. While Alleyn’s were arguably having the lion’s share of possession, Hampton looked the more dangerous of the two sides, often threatening on the counter due to the strength and positioning of Felonov-Tzanev and the pace of Caspar Strouts and Marcus Solomon on either wing.
While they looked threatening, Hampton weren’t able to create any real shooting opportunites in the opening 15 minutes of the encounter, with Felonov-Tzanev having a couple of efforts blocked while some rather tame efforts from outside of box were dealt with easily by the Alleyn’s keeper.
This all changed around the halfway point of the first half, however. Alleyn’s pushed forward, but their attack was repelled confidently by the Hampton defence, and a powerful clearance from Sooho Jin found its way to the feet of Felonov-Tzanev, clear of the Alleyn’s defence. While his initial shot was unsuccessful, a cheeky lob which beat the keeper but not the defender, who hacked it off the line, the striker was there for the follow up and easily slotted home to give Hampton the advantage.
Alleyn’s roared back in full force, striking the woodwork from a free-kick and nearly penetrating the Hampton defence on several occasions. On the backfoot, the U13A team held strong and managed to get through to half time one up. A couple of changes ensued at the break, with Alex Watson coming on and Omer Olcer joining him just a few minutes into the second half.
Hampton looked more confident after half-time, with Felonov-Tzanev threatening on several occasions, though Alleyn’s were far from out of the game- they created several good chances, including one which required a brilliant last ditch tackle from Strouts to keep the U13As in front.
However, they coped with the pressure and a weak foot volley from Felonov-Tzanev, which albeit lacked power, slithered into the bottom corner past the helpless Alleyn’s keeper to double the Hampton lead.
They were playing with more confidence now, and Felonov-Tzanev and Watson exchanged a one-two before the striker rifled home to bring up a hat-trick his tireless and dogged work deserved. However, Alleyn’s, roared on by the home supporters, came back fighting, and Hampton had to summon every morsel of energy they had left to keep out their newly energised opponents.
And, in part, they did not succeed, as Alleyn’s ensured it would be a nervy last five minutes for Hampton after scoring two late goals, with a cross being clinically dispatched into the roof of the net before a free kick deflected off a Hampton defender and sped into the top corner past a helpless Seb Rautenberg.
The U13As stood strong despite the constant pressure from Alleyn’s, and burst forward on one last attack. Olcer pounced on a loose ball, and though he may not have got to it, the gritty determination from the winger meant that he was tugged on the shirt by a defender, meaning Hampton were awarded a penalty.
The ever-reliable Alessandro Cardinale converted cooly from the spot to seal the victory and a place in the ISFA semi final for Hampton U13As as they go marching on.