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ConIFA WFC: Padania 6-1 Matabeleland @ Gander Green Lane, Sutton


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Despite impressing the crowd with their work rate and athleticism, Matabeleland struggled with the technical superiority and tactical intelligence of Padania in their first ever ConIFA finals tournament match. 

Financial constraints meant Matabeleland's participation was uncertain right up until they departed Zimbabwe for London and VISA issues meant the team selection was also uncertain, whilst political pressure have made it difficult to release a team sheet.

The side went for it, however, with a shot straight from kick-off, though it went some way wide of Marco Murriero's goal. 

The African side impressed with an energetic style of player harrying their Padan opponents with high pressing and disciplined play. They would find themselves behind very early on, however, as Giacomo Innocenti tapped in a cross from the right.

Murriero almost gifted an equaliser as he dropped an innocuous cross and his defenders failed to clear, however, he smothered the ball before the Matabele attackers could react. Innocenti was then put forward once more and got to the ball before the onrushing Matabeleland goalkeeper, teeing up striker Ersid Pllumbaj who was crowded out by retreating defenders, he put forward Gabriele Piantoni who with the whole goal gaping struck the outside of the right post.

Padania dominated the game from then on, though Matabele were able to cause problems with their relentless style of play. In the final six minutes of the first half, Padania would find the net three times.

Pllumbaj had his effort saved but Piantoni atoned for his error by smashing the ball home into an empty net from around 20 yards. 

Secondly, Piantoni stabbed home to complete a well-worked passing move from close range before Innocenti chested down a cross and slotted home for 4-0. 

After the break, Matabeleland finally began to assert themselves more going forward, much to the delight of the crowd, right back Sipho Mlalazi finding the ball after good build up and firing a long range drive into the hands of Murriero.

A Thomas Nkomo nutmeg bought a massive cheer as did a fantastic bit of skill from substitute Shylock Ndlovu to escape two markers.

Striker William Rosset, however, put the European Champions 5-0 up before Giulio Valente controlled a cross from the left and slotted home under pressure. A clever flick from Romeo Sibanda was just wide as Matabeleland hunted for a goal to show for their efforts. 

It came however with a Thabiso Ndlela header from a corner, igniting massive scenes throughout Gander Green Lane.

Matabeleland would have a couple of chances to get a second but it finished 6-1 with the side showing a much-improved performance in the second period.

After the game, the Matabeleland shook hands with spectators who congregated by the side of the pitch. They would need results in the last group games against Szekely Land and Tuvalu whilst Padania will be looking to add a World Championship to their European successes. 

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