The U16 Junior League Cup Final was a fiercely contested game between Northwood Youth U16 Red & AEK Youth U16 Black. Both teams being deserving cup finalists. A 9am kick off at Harvesters FC on a cloudy Sunday afternoon was the setting for what was to be an enthralling match which began with a minute’s silence for one of Northwood’s coaches who sadly passed away in recent weeks.
The opening 10 minutes was a nervy affair with both teams feeling each other out, Northwood slowly began to grow into the game and seemed to find their feet soon after. At the 30-minute mark Northwood had possession on the left-hand side of midfield around 30 or so yards out, their player came inside and hit a cross/shot which to the AEK keeper’s credit had no chance of getting anything on and flew into the top right corner to put Northwood 1-0 to the good. 5 minutes later Mark Cripps one of AEK’s centre backs was forced off due to injury, but the team rallied together and with the help of a fantastic double save from AEK’s keeper Kacper Burzycki the score remained 1-0.
AEK’s centre back who came off injured made his way over at half time and decided that he could come back on in the second half which was a much-needed boost to the team. A couple of attacking changes were made at half time for AEK and the second half began. Again, a sloppy start to the second half from AEK and with 50 minutes or so on the clock they hadn’t really got going.
AEK then gained a free kick just outside of the penalty area on the right-hand side, Luke Prokopiou stood over the free kick and managed to lift the ball up and over the wall and into the top right-hand corner to give AEK the equaliser and a much-needed confidence boost. The goal seemed to immediately give AEK a new lease of life which was evident as suddenly, they were winning 1st and 2nd balls and momentum seemed to have shifted. AEK were to then hit the crossbar with a shot from distance from Darius Ion.
At around 60 minutes Zack Younis expertly stole the ball on the halfway line and passed the ball into the path of Luke Prokopiou who played a defence splitting pass in-between the Northwood full back and centre back to which Adrian Tarnar was on the receiving end and played a square pass across goal to Daniel Asante who was there to slot home the goal which gave AEK a 1-2 advantage going into the last 20 minutes. In the final period of the game Northwood tried their upmost to get an equaliser, hitting the crossbar with around 10 minutes left. AEK needed to defend resolutely in order to cross the finish line.
Eventually the final whistle went with AEK emerging victorious and being crowned the U16 Junior League Cup Winners.
Being the coach of this group is nothing short of a pleasure and words cannot express how proud I am, they are turning into fine young men and are an absolute credit to both this football club and their parents. To come from behind in a cup final optimises what this team is about. This season hasn’t been the easiest for any of us and has been full of ups and downs but as a group we have always stuck together and continued to develop and stay focused. To end the season this way was perfect and there is not another group I’d rather coach or be part of. Last but certainly not least I would like to give a shoutout to Rameek Small for his support!
Goal scorers: Luke Prokopiou & Daniel Asante.
Man of the match: Luke Prokopiou.
Team: Kacper Burzycki, Cameron Boateng, Galvin Damon, Anthony Antoniou, Mark Cripps, To-Zion Small (Captain), Abubakar Ahmed, Darius Ion, Zack Younis, Luke Prokopiou, Drew Dempsey, Daniel Cooper Price, Adrian Tarnar, Derek Rocha, Daniel Asante & Brandon Khwaja.