With Rivalry Week on the horizon and the All-Star game set to follow, the league's top contenders took advantage of one last chance to solidify their spot in the table. Bedford won't play another match until March and desperately needed points this week. Raiders United wasted no time in knocking upstart Spartans down a peg, and their sister club Hurst City fought hard to stay alive as they head into a showdown with the league leaders.
Next week, every club will play the Other Team from their school in what usually turns out to be a lopsided but enjoyable set of fixtures. If things go the way they ought to, Raiders will all but clinch their spot in the Champions Cup while three other squads can set themselves up for a razor-thin finish. Circle the Week 6 matchup between Stallions and Spartans now. It could decide the league.
Shorthanded Bedford United Rally to Down Real Euless 4-1
With almost half the roster held out after their grades came back, Bedford United had the deck stacked against them. Real Euless pulled ahead within the first three minutes. With the Broncos defense disorganized, a Euless striker found space to chip a soft shot over the back line and goaltender. They held the lead through the first half, with a little help from the pitch.
Bedford lost an early chance to equalize when their leading scorer slipped in the mud, spoiling a breakaway. He redeemed himself after the break, though, launching a 35-yard strike to level the match at one. Minutes later, he put the hoops ahead for good; rising above the Euless defense to head the game-winner home on a corner kick.
That seemed to unlock something for Bedford, who bombarded the goal for the final twenty minutes and tallied twice more before the final whistle.
Spartans FC No Match for Raiders United in 4-0 Loss
Central has struggled to field consistent teams over the last few seasons, in part because they've had a new manager every year. Spartans, unfortunately, have fallen victim to what looks to be the tail end of that trend. They've got their man at the helm now, but they're still dealing with recruiting problems from previous seasons. With only eleven players, they couldn't contain Raiders United.
Spartans pressured well early, even giving the Reds trouble on set pieces in the opening frame. Hurst struggled to clear the box on an early corner kick, but eventually got free and started to control the game in their usual fashion. With Central hoping to steal a tight game on set pieces and Raiders dedicated to possession play, it was only a matter of time before this match exploded.
Raiders broke the deadlock on a counter-attack, sprinting down the wing and cutting in front of the Spartan defense to slot a hard shot past a diving keeper at the far post. They scored once more before the half, then put the game away after the break. They doubled their lead on a pair of miscues: a deflected cross that found the back of the net and a scrum that saw roughly half the players on the field touch the ball before it trickled over the line.
Hurst City Buries Atletico Central 5-1 After Trailing Early
For the briefest of moments, it was a new day for the boys in blue. Atlético Central snagged the lead after a nice combination of passes on the left wing. Their striker finished low at the far post and the entire squad — restricted to eleven, just like Spartans — celebrated as though they'd won the Champions Cup itself. But that confidence evaporated just as fast.
City took the lead before the half was out, scoring after Atlético failed to clear the box. The City man went for placement over power, chipping a shot neatly into the far post. That play sums up the match perfectly. Any time Atlético made a mistake, Hurst City was there to punish them.
Case in point: the cross that Atlético's keeper punched away into the waiting feet of multiple City players. One of them took the chance, dropping another lofted effort into the far post. The further ahead City got, the more disorganized Central became. Inevitably, the match snowballed into a runaway victory for Hurst.