Penalty heartbreak wrecks OUWAFC’s Varsity hopes

Sport University Sport

IMG_1934Last weekend saw the Blues and the Furies travel to Cambridge for the biggest event in OUWAFC’s calendar, women’s football Varsity. As per the usual Varsity format the Furies played in the morning against Cambridge seconds, the Eagles, with the Blues match to follow in the afternoon.

Initial nerves got the better of the Furies in the opening stages of their match, meaning that the Eagles were able to muddle together a scrappy goal to go 1-0 up. However, by no means willing to hand over their Varsity title, Furies gave nothing less than a heroic performance in the second half, with the undisputed highlight of the game being when goalkeeper and player of the match, Chloe Coates, made a jaw-dropping penalty save. Despite being their opponents’ equals for both skill and endurance, the Furies were unable to score that elusive equaliser and the Eagles lifted the trophy for the first time since 2008, leaving all Oxford’s hopes of a Varsity victory in the hands of the Blues that afternoon.

The 28th Women’s Blues Varsity match was another agonisingly close battle, with both teams making determined efforts on goal. When 25 minutes into the game Oxford were awarded a free kick just inside the Cambridge half, the ball was sent sailing into the box and the raucous visiting supporters watched as Cambridge failed to make a decisive  clearance and Oxford midfielder Lucie “Juice” Bowden came storming through to head it into the top left-hand corner.

From then on both teams noticeably hardened their resolve, the challenge for Oxford being to maintain a sense of urgency and avoid becoming complacent. Oxford’s defence seemed almost impenetrable thanks to the tireless hard work of their back four and in particular a stand-out performance from player of the match Hannah Griffiths at left-back. However, 30 minutes into the second half a corner to Cambridge was hammered into the back of the Oxford net to disbelief from the sidelines and dismay from the Blues.

With both sides throwing absolutely everything into their game, the score was still tied at full-time meaning that Oxford had to endure a gruelling half-hour of extra time, despite the intermittent snow and freezing temperatures. The Blues seized every chance they got to take a shot at goal, but were unable to prevent the outcome that had seemed inevitable ever since Cambridge equalised: the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

The first two Oxford penalties were coolly slotted in by Christine Odabashian and Lucie Bowden. Unfortunately Cambridge enjoyed the same success rate, despite keeper Alison Feder managing to get a hand to the ball on both occasions. Every Oxonian’s heart was in their mouths when Sophie Cooper hit the post for Oxford’s third penalty and Cambridge scored theirs. The burden of the deciding penalty rested with first-year Hannah Griffiths, who narrowly missed, meaning that after a truly epic 120-minute battle, Cambridge claimed victory. Despite the fact that neither squad was able to bring a trophy back to Oxford this year, they can hold their heads up high having shown both passion and determination in the form of some genuinely outstanding football.

PHOTO/Charley Turton