Jersey Lions tamed in UEFA Regions’ Cup opener

FOR a game that lacked as much drama as a suburban book club reunion, the final story line might have been pure Jersey fantasy in Rome. Ultimately, they were given a rough introduction to the fine line of international football.

With seconds remaining, Jay Giles launched a long free-kick into the box in hopes of a last-minute equaliser. Almost in slow motion, the bullet traveled around everyone, then time stopped. The ball lands in the feet of goalkeeper Euan Van Der Vliet, of all, the gaping goal.

Collective breaths were held.

But not by his counterpart Gabrielle Marini, who threw herself at Van Der Vliet’s feet and stole the ball.

A 1-0 loss for the JFA combination – in full England kit as the nation’s representatives in Rome – against their UEFA Regions’ Cup hosts Lazio.

They were seemingly in control, gaining confidence and dominating the ball, but without much threat, when, with less than a quarter of an hour to go, Jersey were defeated.

After Luke Campbell cleared a deep Italian free kick, the ball was sent back into the box. Harry Curtis moved a yard too far, leaving substitute Daniel Rossi to get on the wrong side of him to steal into the bottom right corner.

Until then, neither team seemed to score on the doomsday-looking wasteland of a decrepit pitch at the Stadio Comunale Quinto Ricci in Aprilia, a site that looked like something you might find in Chernobyl’s no-go zones.

It didn’t suit either team.

A petulant yellow card received by Jonny Le Quesne a moment before the break was the only real incident of any note in the first half. Only one shot on target was taken by both teams: a half-hearted header from Kamen Nafkha just inside the penalty area.

There was more rhythm to Tony Adams’ tango “dancing” on Strictly Come Dancing than on display here. Jersey have failed to get their forwards into the game while the Italian strikers have to be directly linked to Pippo Inzaghi for all the times they have been caught offside.

The second half became even less fluid as both teams resorted to nasty fouls and a few unnecessary feet left too long, stopping the flow and sparking mini-scrambles of protest.

As the game entered the final quarter, Jersey started to get into a bit of a rhythm and began dominating possession and territory, but the Italians, with the catenaccio in their DNA, made it difficult to break through.

Then came the goal, which left Jersey with plenty to do to qualify from this intermediate round group.

They meet German fans in Bavaria on Sunday who need a win to have any realistic hope of qualifying for the 2023 final as group winners.

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