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ConIFA WFC: Chagos Islands 0-1 Matabeleland @ Parkside, Aveley


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European Cup Winner Bruce Grobbelaar finally made a much-anticipated appearance for Matabeleland against the Chagos Islands. Grobbelaar, who turns 61 in October, had been working with the side as goalkeeper coach and wore the no.96 in tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. 

The Chagos Islands fulfilled the fixture following the withdrawal of Ellan Vannin. The Chagos Islands represent the population of the British Indian Ocean Territory who were evicted to build British and American navy bases. This game officially counted as a friendly and for tournament purposes was counted as a 3-0 win for Matabeleland. 

Straight from kick-off, Hanley Saga attempted to chip South-African born former Zimbabwe international Grobbelaar but his effort was some way away from goal.

Grobbelaar was very vocal throughout his time on the pitch, organising the defence and his teammates. 

A mistake from his opposite number Mike Sakir nearly gifted the opening goal. Sakir was unable to get to a ball first giving Mpofu the chance to curl in but his shot bounced agonisingly wide.

Grobbelaar delighted the crowd when he met a loose ball, successfully turned an attacker and paid a Firmino style no-look pass to his left-back. He was to be subbed off, however, after around 25 minutes for Matt Perrella, another member of the Matabele backroom staff.

Saga nearly put the ball past him, rounding Perrella but overrun his touch, which went out for a goal-kick. Edwards fired just over to end the first half.

Both teams had plenty of attacking intent but neither could do enough to break the stalemate. Matabeleland were pleasing on the eye with a fast moving, quick passing game.

Perrella made two smart saves in quick succession to deny Augusin and Oxde and also dropped a cross but smothered before any Chagos Islands could react.

Matabeleland were looking dangerous going forward too and got the goal, the eventual winner when their no.16 smashed a towering header into the top corner. 

The Chagossians pushed for an equaliser, Edwards would curl an effort just wide and Dylan Tsatous's low free-kick bounced just wide too. Matabeleland were doing a good job keeping the ball high up the pitch and even brought in manager Justin Walley for a short cameo. Auction winners Sam Bodmer and Ross Hagan also played a part of the game. 

Tsatous would set up Fortune for a sitter but the forward missed and would've been relieved he was offside anyway. 

Matabeleland came away with a deserved win and will now play Tamil Eelam in Aveley on Saturday.

The game may have meant nothing to the final ConIFA rankings but the fans who made the trip would've enjoyed a fine afternoon with both teams showing clear attacking intent and crucially enjoying themselves when they did it. 

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