Chapter 70: Trap
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Liu Wei’s troops appeared to be scattered by the early goal.
But the coach himself did not appear flustered or irritated. He walked pitch side and made a hand gesture at Fan Cunjie.
His captain nodded and turned to Yao Wang, making a face.
Yao Wang nodded quietly too.
Both teams quickly assumed their respective positions as they waited to restart the game.
Although they had an early lead, Shu Guang knew that it was not exactly good.
Most of the time, teams would rather be leading just a few minutes before the match ended; that would have been better to equalize or rally against after getting an early lead.
Naturally, this would not be a problem for teams who could control the flow of the game. This in turn begged the question, amongst the two playing right now, who was the stronger squad that could freely control how the match ran?
After a brief moment of ecstasy, Shu Guang quickly calmed down.
Zhang Jun, the goalscorer glanced at the red armband on his left arm, drew a deep breath and stilled his heart as he waited for the whistle to signal for the restart.
Dingding’s attack was fiercer and their formation more compact—even the back line was pressed up to the halfway line. The entire squad was viciously dropping more pressure on Shu Guang without a break.
Chen Huafeng was curious at Dingding’s boldness. It was the right response to pour forward when you were behind, but how could the defense move so high up too?
It was a stance that abandoned all protection, and Dingding was using such a death-defying move after just 20 minutes.
The spectators were also chattering away on this matter.
“Isn’t it too early for Dingding to play like this?”
“Yeah, it’s basically a move to be used in the final 15 minutes. It’s usually only effectively in a last stand. Now this…”
“Now this, what?” Viewer A asked.
“Fool! Can’t you see?” Viewer B scolded. “Dingding is playing like this against Shu Guang, who has the best forwards in Luoyang. If they keep attacking but can’t score, what do you think’s gonna happen?”
“Oh! Dingding’s gonna concede more goals.” Viewer A finally understood, but was quickly confused once more. “Then, why would they insist on such a playstyle? Aren’t they afraid of conceding?”
“I don’t know. Ahem! We’re not the coaches, why are we being so worried! Let’s just watch the game!”
The live broadcast studio.
“When did Liu Wei become so bold?” Zhou Jiansheng asked, slightly surprised.
“You’ll know soon…”
Fan Cunjie whirled each foot over the ball once. Seeing that Wang Ning was befuddled, he quickly made a pass to Lu Hui on the left.
However, before Lu Hui could get to it, the delivery was cut off mercilessly by Chen Bo, who delivered a long ball to Kaka.
The Brazilian made a through pass for the first time and Zhang Jun moved with it! There was only Xia Bo left in front of him. Dingding was wide open!
The linesman raised his flag and whistled.
“Offside!” Wang Qiang shouted.
Zhang Jun waved, feeling a little annoyed, but he was not dissatisfied with the decision. There was a need to be cautious with Dingding moving so far up—it was easy to get an offside.
Kaka shrugged. He thought that he was being careless since he did not have the time to check if Zhang Jun was offside when he was busy making the pass.
Dingding, clearly intent on equalizing, did not slow down their assault. But, Shu Guang did not abandon their attack either after a single offside—Zhang Jun and Ren Yu De were staying active up front, prepared to receive the ball at any time and spread salt over Dingding’s wound.
Kaka took the ball off Cao Po. He looked up and saw that Zhang Jun had plenty of space and was not offside. He quickly made a through pass.
Zhang Jun moved!
But as if following Zhang Jun’s shadow, the whistle sounded.
Zhang Jun stared doubtfully at the referee, not quite understanding how he had exceeded the line.
Nonetheless, the replay on the big screen clearly showed that Zhang Jun had moved half his body past the final line—the linesman had sharp eyes. The officials in the semi-finals were not a bunch of nobodies!
After seeing that, Zhang Jun realized he had nothing to say.
He still could not understand. He definitely saw the defender on the flank standing in front of him. How could he be offside as soon as he turned and touched Kaka’s pass? Could the defender have already been running to the front when he was turning?
Kaka was lost too. The other team had four defenders, but when he passed he only saw three. He could not keep his eye on their smallest guard, who seemed to be standing behind the tallest. If he passed without seeing where their last man was, Zhang Jun would very likely be offside. If he did not pass, their fearsome defensive midfielder would challenge for the ball without hesitation—holding possession meant losing it.
To be frank, their No. 8 was a difficult opponent. He could occasionally get the better of him, but not all the time. In that moment, the ball was passed, but Zhang Jun fell into their offside trap once more.
Zhang Jun stopped running. He simply could not grasp where the other team’s final man was. Occasionally, he would see Yao Wang staying behind, and think that he was the last guy. But, he would be wrong. Other times, he thought that it was Ya Dong, but he would be proved wrong again. In the end, he simply gave up and Kaka could not get the ball to him.
Kaka was hesitating too. Zhang Jun was completely trapped in their offside trickery. If he passed the ball to Ren Yu De, they would be too far from the goal. Plus, Yu De was not used to dribbling over long ranges. He would be easily stopped.
They would have been better off with Yang Pan. With his speed and technique, even the length of half the pitch would be easy work for him. Whenever Kaka passed the ball to no man’s land, Yang Pan would quickly sprint towards it, leaving any defender behind and breaking their offside trap.
Was he at his wit’s end without Yang Pan?
Dingding’s free kick at the back was sent to Cao Po, who got it to Fan Cunjie before Kaka could close in.
Their cheerleaders quickly blew up in thunderous applause. When their captain had the ball, enemies would quiver whereas they would have much to look forward to.
Indeed, Cunjie dribbled calmly despite facing another chain defense from Wang Ning and Li Hao. Although there were four legs against his own two, he was completely calm, never worrying about losing possession.
Such mastery while on the ball; the scene was an answer to why he received so much favor and accolades even when his team did not always have the best results!
The captain looked around as he moved the ball. The minute he saw the Shu Guang defense relax a little, he firmly passed it to Shi Lei and ran into the box.
When he had been holding the ball, the team’s rhythm had been slow like they were on a stroll. But as soon as a decisive pass was made to the front, Dingding suddenly stopped entirely. Such natural movements were befitting of a powerhouse!
Shu Guang was not used to this and their defender began to get left behind.
When Shi Lei took the ball, Lin Xiaofang and Yang Yong rushed at him—the latter left a huge space behind him!
Bin Fei did not run towards the goalpost, but towards the flanks, pulling Li Jieguang with him and widening the space left unwatched.
Fan Cunjie ran into the empty spot and Shi Lei sent the ball sharply to his feet.
One pull with his left foot and the captain was inside the box.
An Ke charged out!
And Fan Cunjie swung his foot!
He then slowed down out of the blue, and instead of firing a strong shot, he lobbed! The ball flew over An Ke and into the empty net!
Chen Bo dashed and slid, however he did not manage to get to it, ending up inside the net together with the ball.
“It’s in! Twenty-eight minutes into the first-half, Fan Cunjie has equalized the score for Dingding!”
“Such a clever ball! He looked like he was going to cannon it, but it was a technical shot!”
The loudspeakers had been quiet like a rock after Shu Guang led; the noise returned now that the teams were even.
Like Dingding, Shu Guang was just as noisy.
Leaping up, An Ke raged at Yang Yong immediately.
“What were you doing? There’s just one striker. Lin Xiaofang alone was enough! What were you doing running up? F*ck! Leaving such a huge hole! Do you want to die?!”
It was usually the keepers who would first unleash their fury whenever a team conceded, and An Ke was not just a little angry.
Knowing that it was his mistake, Yang Yong stood quietly and allowed An Ke to blow up right in front of him, staying there even after their teammates got An Ke to back off.
Li Jieguang patted his fellow defender on the shoulder. “Don’t take it to heart. An Ke has always been that tempestuous.”
Yang Yong glanced at him and nodded. Nevertheless, Li Jieguang knew that Yang Yong did not really hear him—his eyes were not focused.
Zhang Jun knew that he had to do something as captain at the sight of the mini chaos. He went over and told An Ke, “What are you crying for? Isn’t that just one goal? What is there to be surprised about? We’ll just score another. Watch your post and direct the defense. Stop complaining.”
“Yeah! We’re teammates. There’s no need to be so angry with our own!” Kaka smiled as he attempted to cool down the situation. “Yang Yong, don’t worry too much. A mistake is fine! Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to play well after that, and don’t let it ruin the entire game for you!”
When Liang Ke saw An Ke jumping up and pointing out raucously, he stood up, intending to walk to the pitch and calm him down. However, he quickly sat down again and quietly watched the pitch.
Su Fei, already used to this frequent eccentric behavior of his, was not surprised.
The referee gestured for Shu Guang to restart the game soon.
“Bring your training face up!” Zhang Jun patted Yang Yong and ran to the center circle. He ran, not strolled—to let everyone know that the goal earlier did not affect Shu Guang. Everything was going on as usual. They just needed to to start from zero once more.
But, were they really unaffected? Was it only just about starting from zero once more? He was not exactly clear about that himself.
Twenty-eight minutes into the first-half, Fan Cunjie exploited a mistake in the Shu Guang defense to equalize. They were now at 1: 1.
That was how it looked like on the surface.