Chapter 19: Final Eight
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Lin Ling stumbled as he broke into the area and drove in an effort! Zhang Lintao did not extend his hands but merely caught the ball tightly in his arms. It was the fourth time Lin Ling tried for a goal, but Lintao did not concede even a single corner.
At this point, when Li Yongle saw Lin Ling trying for a goal, he was so indifferent that he did not bother to interfere; a Lin Ling who had lost himself was just another ordinary player.
This time, Lin Ling got a pass from a teammate; he broke into the area but did not shoot or pass. He kept running with the ball and Luo Bin moved in, forcing him towards the baseline. When he was almost forced out, Lin Ling made a shooting pose and the defender quickly extended a leg for a block. However, Lin Ling did not shoot and back-passed instead!
A Tong Xing striker rushed forward, there was just a 5-meter distance towards the goal! The Zhongyuan defenders never thought that this would happen and could only watch as the player struck. And yet, Zhang Lintao once again came to the rescue with another gorgeous save by palming the ball away. Zhang Yang quickly followed up and cleared with a long ball.
Zhao Defeng got to the ball and delivered a diagonal pass to Li Yongle, who was dashing up the field. Maintaining his run at breakneck speeds, he shook himself off a defender who tried to stop him and fired another ground shot from outside the area! Flustered, the keeper tipped the ball away and over the line. Corner.
The Zhongyuan players, who seemed to have been largely kept inside their own half, moved into the opposition’s box in the blink of an eye. Even Zhang Yang went to join in on the fun.
Zhao Defeng took the corner and the ball curled in the air. In front, Li Qiang jumped just slightly ahead but missed! And so did Luo Bin in the center! But towards the end was Zhang Yang, who appeared and dropped down for a diving header! The ball went in from a very tight angle!
4: 0! Zhang Yang put the icing on the cake!
The teammates enveloped him excitedly, celebrating his first goal.
“Brat! You’re no sham!” Luo Bin laughed, patting his head.
“Yeah! I’m not going to forgive you if you ever say that you’re a newcomer ever again! What a beautiful header!”
“Such a difficult shot!”
“Really couldn’t tell!”
But, there was no joy in Zhang Yang’s face. He shrugged off his teammates and rushed at the Tong Xin goal, shouting, “F*ck! Who pushed me from behind just now!”
“And I was just about to praise you,” Li Yongle said. “I guess it’s fine now.”
It was then that Zhang Yang suddenly turned happy. “Well, to be frank, the goal wasn’t bad at all! I’ve made my choice, it’ll be called ‘The Zhang Way of the Half Squat Dashing Header’!”
“You really are a newbie…”
Yang Pan was holding back his rage, believing that the other team had hurt Zhang Jun.It was as if he forgot the “raging corner” he took in last week’s match. He made for a hard breakthrough between two defenders, dashed into the area and crossed the ball!
Zhang Rui took a shot! The ball was pushed away by the keeper, but a defender’s ensuing clearance fell to Wang Bo, who then passed it to Ren Yu De. While Yu De himself had few chances to put on a show in this game, he was much more active when he was moved up front to the striker’s position. He was facing a three-man encirclement but with his dazzling control, he moved with ease; he turned, lowered himself and dashed away. With a prompt pull of the ball with his right foot, he tripped a midfielder, who came diving in.
Ren Yu De was forced to the baseline and looked as if he had nowhere to go. But he lightly poked the ball and nutmegged his marker! Then, he made a spin with his body to bypass his marker―a flick turn!
The keeper came diving out as Ren Yu De gently leaped. And the ball went over the goalie. When it dropped, it was already in Bai Ma’s net.
1: 1! Shu Guang had equalized the scores at the sixty-seventh minute through a solo performance from Ren Yu De!
But instead of celebrating the score, Ren Yu De picked up the ball and dashed towards the center circle. There were 13 minutes left―his team had to score another goal in order to progress to the next round.
It was after they leveled their scores that the Shu Guang players displayed their true depth as dark horses; with the Bai Ma players surrounded, they attacked, pinning the home team within their own area in the time that remained.
A long shot by Wang Bo was blocked by a defender with his own body. Su Li ran up and made another shot; the keeper palmed it away. Zhang Rui took possession but did not shoot, passing it to Yang Pan instead. Although Liang Ke banned him from long shots, he was not banned from shooting entirely and Yang Pan finally found the chance to blow off some steam. With a whirl of his foot, he summoned the strength he used for long shots and volleyed!
Anyone could imagine the sensation of a ball that was fired at a speed of 180 km/h from 5 m away. Still, the keeper did not even have time to connect the dots and only saw a white light whirl past his ears. It went in!
If that ball had hit his body, he would have spit blood. It was practically an attempt at murder, utterly terrifying.
On the other side, An Ke was scared too. “I’m lucky I’m not up against him…”
2: 1! Just five minutes after leveling the scores, Shu Guang made their comeback!
Li Yongle gracefully took possession off Lin Ling and passed to Zhang Yuchao on the flanks.
It was the seventy-eighth minute, there were two minutes left before the game ended. Lin Ling was getting more frustrated by the minute―usually, he would have passed the ball, but he decided to attempt a dribble past Li Yongle instead. He wanted payback from Li Yongle, who had been running him haggard since the start of the second half. Yet, one stretch of the taller boy’s leg claimed the ball from him. The Tong Xing captain was now completely filled with distracting thoughts, not of winning but of scoring a single goal. It had been three years; would it still be a luxury to end it all with a goal? In those three years, his assists counted 29 times in total, but his goals amounted to just 2.
The match was almost over. This was his last game in the high school soccer scene; after his three years of selfless sacrifice for his teammates, his goal tally was pitifully scarce. Now, he simply wanted to make amends for that lacking feeling, but that goalie…
Zhang Lintao made a leaping dive and grasped the ball firmly. To him, Lin Ling simply did not know the motto for a goalkeeper: “It’s a disgrace to concede goals!”―the reason why he would not permit Lin Ling to do as he wished.
The referee glanced at his watch and injury time was trickling away.
Last chance! Lin Ling raised his leg and fired a shot! He even smiled at his perfect shot as the ball headed towards a blind angle; it should have went in. But a hand appeared, and with a tipping save, the ball went over the crossbar.
*Beep! Beep! Beep!*
Lin Ling collapsed in front of the goal. He gave that keeper a death glare while the Zhongyuan players erupted into winning cheers around him.
4: 0, Zhongyuan Technical had earned a resounding victory over Tong Xin High School, entering the final eight.
For Lin Ling, his days as a high school soccer player had ended―he would never wear Tong Xing’s purple jersey again. The autumn breeze blew into the field; an appropriate farewell for the captain.
His expression recovered as he picked himself up. He went up to Li Yongle and removed his jersey, handing it to his worthy opponent. “You’re the only one who has been able to make me lose my cool. This No. 10 shirt is for you.”
Li Yongle also removed his No. 14 shirt and exchanged it with the captain. “Any plans for the future?”
“To get into university and keep playing. And keep playing until I can’t move.”
“I wish you the best of luck!”
“Just don’t have me encounter you again! Haha!”
The pair laughed out loud.
After Zhang Rui’s attempt went across the line, the referee rang the whistle to signal full-time.
2: 1, Shu Guang had flipped the scores on their visit and defeated Bai Ma, breaking into the final eight.
But Liang Ke was not too happy―Zhang Jun’s injury cast a shadow over their victory and there was no telling if he could play in the next game. Seriously ! Why would there be an injury out of the blue?
Could they still win if they played without Zhang Jun in the deadly match next Saturday?
In that moment, the typically cheery Liang Ke was like the setting sun, slowly sinking into darkness.