Neither subzero temperatures, nor turbulent weather could overshadow the Woodbridge Strikers’ emphatic 3-1 victory over local rivals' Vaughan Azzurri.
Woodbridge started the match extremely well, taking the lead within the opening two minutes as left back Davier Walcott rose high to nod a corner past Vaughan keeper Andrew D’Souza. The home side doubled their lead four minutes later, when Oscar Cordon and Julian Uccello combined down the left flank and the latter’s cross deflected off Daniel Gogarty and into the net.
A defensive error and a bit of fortune were significant in the early lead, but stylistically there was a vast contrast between the two sides.
Woodbridge received their best chances from corner kicks and on the counter-attack, tormenting the Azzurri on the break, and equally impressive without the ball. Woodbridge played in their preferred 4-1-4-1 formation, and out-of-possession they remained disciplined, stifling pockets of spaces in central areas, and shifting from left to right in unison.
This was a logical approach considering Vaughan’s lack of pace upfront, but the away side’s stagnant off-the-ball movement, and non-existent cohesion going forward, contributed to their downfall. Woodbridge sat off the Azzurri back four, squeezing tight in central midfield with Christian Cavallini and Oscar Cordon pressing Vaughan’s midfield two, while Andrew Derayeh aided his teammates if the away side bypassed the initial phase.
Likewise, Vaughan’s system didn’t help their cause. The midfielders were overloaded, Alon Badat unsure as to whether he should play off the striker, or support his midfield, whereas Domenico Gullo didn’t receive adequate service or support when he received the ball. From open play, Vaughan found joy down the right flank, but although Darren Gertiesingh served as the Azzurri’s main attacking outlet, the winger’s deliveries from wide areas were underwhelming. Vaughan’s substandard activity in open play would continue, with the away side’s best opportunity of the half arriving in the twenty-first minute, when Matt George tipped a Joseph Di Chiara’s venomous free kick over the net.
Woodbridge’s lack of a creative midfielder was always likely to inhibit their buildup play, but another difference between the two sides was in the strike line. Uccello’s tireless work rate and ability to hold up the ball in the opening half tormented Vaughan defenders, and ignited quick counter attacks.
The Woodbridge attacker grew in significance in the second half, dropping deeper to connect play with the advancing Cordon and Cavallini, with the latter linking midfield and attack with his quick penetrative passes. Although, Uccello missed a glorious chance in the second half – when he sprung the offside trap, rounded the keeper and placed his shot wide of the net – the Woodbridge forward corrected his aforementioned mistake midway through the second half. Cavallini’s pressure forced Vaughan centre-back Daniel Di Biagio to concede possession, and the midfielder put Uccello in free on goal, with the striker duly handing the home side a commanding three-goal lead.
The final half hour of the match was fairly stretched, with Woodbridge aiming to increase their lead, but the departure of several starters thwarted their balance. Vaughan, however, wisely utilized their substitutions; the decision to summon Lucas Puntillo to the flanks, and drop Joe Amato back to his preferred position, saw the substitute peg a goal back in the seventy-fifth minute.
Still, the match was calling for a tactical alteration, and Carmine Isacco provided it by shifting to a back three. The away side received two great chances in the final five minutes in what appeared to be an unorthodox 3-4-3, but Gullo guided Gertiesingh’s cross in the six-yard box over the net, while Badat hit the post following a superb delivery from the Vaughan striker.
Woodbridge’s commanding opening ten minutes should have prompted a tactical change, and it was unfortunate to see Vaughan alter their shape so late in the match. Nevertheless, the home side was superior as a unit in- and out- of-possession against a youthful Vaughan side, and the performance fully merited maximum points.