Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 14[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:18]
Chapter 14: Tough Defense
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Almost overnight, the Shu Guang players became celebrities. It was not a typical student’s life to be interviewed and featured in magazines. They were the focus of everybody’s attention wherever they went in school, and there were some who even asked for their autographs.
Being part a group who never held expectations of such bliss, it was natural to lose themselves a little―weren’t they just high-schoolers after all?
In the activity room, Liang Ke’s expression was unusually sullen.
“No training today, let’s have a meeting.”
Everybody in the room had no idea what their coach was up to.
“I’ve seen some problems recently with our team. Do you guys know what they are?
Every player looked at each other, not quite understanding what their coach was referring to.
“We’ve just won a game, but some of us are so over the moon, we’ve even forgotten our surnames. Is there a need to be this happy? If you guys behave like this now, what will it be like when you actually win the national championship? Die of happiness?
“I’m not joking here! I’m being serious right now!”
The laughter quickly faded.
“All of you are still young; there is still a long journey ahead. Always remember, never be arrogant in victory or be discouraged by failure.” Liang Ke pointed at the fixture list behind him. “Many of you don’t know who made this. Allow me to enlighten you. It was Su Fei, who drew it, kneeling on the floor for four and a half hours in one night! She made me keep this a secret but looking at the bunch of you, I’m not willing to let her efforts go to waste in the next match!”
Zhang Jun slid a look at Su Fei who was seated beside the coach, and discovered that she, too, could feel embarrassed.
“What’s this line Su Fei drew with a red marker? Have you guys thought about it? She wants us to keep winning and keep this line going. Are you willing to let the line stop here?”
Their heads lowered, none of the players made a sound.
After what felt like half a day, Liang Ke finally slowed down. “I’m not scolding all of you, just telling you what I felt needed to be said. It’s fine, you can go home now. Think about what I’ve just said. Dismissed!”
It did not feel good to be scolded. Sitting on the balcony, Zhang Jun gazed upon the dark blue sky of the night.
There was a cracking noise as the door to the next door balcony opened; Su Fei came out for a change of scenery after getting tired of sitting in front of books. She stretched lazily before she noticed Zhang Jun on his own veranda. He did not even bother to look at her despite her sudden appearance.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Counting stars.” Zhang Jun still did not turn to look at her.
Su Fei looked at the sky. It was gloomy and devoid of any starlight. “Still thinking about what coach said?”
“Then, what’s on your mind?”
“I’m thinking, how long can that line be drawn?”
She turned towards him.
“How long do you think?”
“I dunno. Maybe very, very long.”
“Really?” she smiled.
Suddenly, Zhang Jun jumped up from his chair. Pointing at Su Fei with a face of complete seriousness, he declared, “You’ll see! The match this week, I will score three myself!”
“No! It’s my birthday gift to you!” With that, he turned and went back inside his house.
Dumbfounded, Su Fei remained where she was. She remembered that the upcoming Saturday―the 20th of October ―was her birthday. She lifted her eyes to the night sky once more.
“Fei Fei, come on inside. It’s cold out there!” Her mother called from inside the house.
“Oh!” Su Fei turned and retreated into her house.
“What were you doing?”
Shu Guang would play host again in their second match on Saturday, and this time, they would be playing against Nanyang High school, a team that ranked eleventh in last year’s championships.
Chen Huafeng had just entered the alleyway into the school and he was shocked at the sight. The tight lane was fully parked with all kinds of cars and motorcycles―all vehicles from news outlets. “So many reporters for just one match!”
Inside the school, a large number of journalists were gathered by the pitch. They were in groups, discussing about the game that would be starting soon as well as Shu Guang, the dark horse.
An Ke was deeply shocked when he saw the doubled amount of press through the window. “Is this for real? It’s so ridiculous!”
“Don’t mind anything outside the pitch,” Liang Ke said. “Have you forgotten what I’ve told you?”
“Nope!” Every player answered loudly.
“Very good! In this game, we’re up against Nanyang High School, which was ranked eleventh last year. They are a defensive team. Their usual formation is 532, with two center-backs and their captain, Liu Tie slightly in front; and in most of their matches, they would never cross the halfway line. Their attacking midfielder is average in ability, but their strike force, which combines a fast player and a tall player still brings a threat. Liu Yun, No. 9 is almost 190 cm tall and a powerful striker, good with headers. Li Peng, No. 10 is only 170 cm, but he is fast with good skills. He is known for making breakthroughs. Their goals come entirely from this duo, so we have to be extremely cautious around them and stop their counter-attacks. At the same time, we have to keep enough pressure on their defense. However, Yang Pan, you are not allowed to fire long shots―not a single one for the entire game.”
Yang Pan nodded.
An Ke was grumbling inside. “Lunatic! They are using a water closet formation, and with no long shots, does he intend for us to slip through the middle?”
“Ren Yu De.”
The player raised his head.
“In this game, don’t limit yourself to the left flank. Do your best to confuse their defense, understand?”
The game began with the referee’s whistle.
Right after kick-off, Nanyang assumed their pure-defensive stance. They did not want to have a repeat of the situation in Shu Guang’s last game where they scored a nine-second goal.
Liu Tie recalled what his own coach told him before the match. “Shu Guang was powerful in its attack and was capable of scoring three points even against the likes of Zhong Xin. Their new recruits have changed the team entirely―they are not to be underestimated! Liu Tie, your objective in this game is to mark Zhang Jun. Do not give him any chance to shoot inside the box. Tackle him if necessary.”
When he looked up, Shu Guang’s attacking group were already dashing forward with extreme vigor.
Wang Bo passed the ball to Ren Yu De, who dribbled for two paces, but soon returned it helplessly at the sight of the opposing team’s impenetrable back line. Liang Ke frowned at the sight from the coach’s seat.
Controlling the ball carefully, Wang Bo looked to pass the ball but he was unable to find anybody. Their two strikers were being marked heavily while both Ren Yu De and Yang Pan were also being forced to the flanks―any delivery into the box would also be cleared out. With Yang Pan also being restricted from firing long shots, he could not figure out how to make a breakthrough.
Just when Wang Bo wallowed in indecisiveness, Ding Ding, one of Nanyang’s defensive midfielders, stole the ball in one agile move! Nanyang quickly went on the attack after taking possession, and Ding Ding lobbed the ball to the front. The 189-cm Liu Yun easily won the header with his towering frame over Su Li before delivering it to Li Pengfei. As the latter prepared to break through, the ball went out as someone slid in for a tackle. It was Yang Pan!
The throw-in that followed was Nanyang’s. Liu Tie passed the ball to their attacking midfielder Zhang Yiming, who crossed the ball into the Shu Guang box again. The tallest of the Shu Guang central defenders was 186 cm tall, but he lost out to Liu Yun by inches. Now, they were in serious trouble as the Nanyang striker leaped!
A shadow rushed out and jumped; a pair of hands gathered the ball tightly. It was An Ke!
“High balls?” An Ke cleared the ball with one kick. “Aren’t you guys underestimating me? What kind of joke is this?!”
Wang Bo got to the ball again but remained stumped in the face of Nanyang’s concentrated central defense. He could only pass the ball to Yang Pan, who dove into the flanks with his incredible speed and crossed it!
Zhang Jun could not get to the ball as it was headed by a burly defender.
The two teams maintained the stalemate in such a fashion. Against an alert Shu Guang, there was no way Nanyang could hit them on the break; it was the same story for Shu Guang against the focused Nanyang defense. They simply could not find a way to slip through in the middle and they also could not make a breakthrough from the flanks.
The score stood frozen at 0 : 0.
After they stayed on the offensive for more than half an hour, a chance finally came for Shu Guang in the thirty-eighth minute. Yang Pan slipped a low pass into the box and Zhang Jun dashed forward.
Not good! Liu Tie thought urgently as he gave chase.
Zhang Jun got to the ball and took a shot! But Liu Tie, risking a flying tackle, deflected the ball off the line with his foot, felling Zhang Jun inside the penalty area at the same time.
The referee’s whistle rang. Liu Tie looked nervously at the match official, but he was pointing to the direction of the pitch side flag; it was a corner kick. The Nanyang captain sighed in relief.
Just one moment of carelessness and I almost let him have it! I really can’t ease off! Liu Tie thought as he stared at Zhang Jun’s back.
Yang Pan crossed the corner into the area, but the ball was headed clear by a Nanyang center-back.
The first-half ended and the score remained at 0 : 0!
“I thought you guys could do better!” Liang Ke said in the locker room. “Ren Yu De, you had that chance straight from the kick-off. Why didn’t you make a breakthrough into the box? Why a back-pass? Were you scared?”
Ren Yu De did not make a sound.
“I don’t believe that you’re just good for some fancy dribbling! No more retreating in the second half; you have to play like Denilson and scatter the Nanyang defense! Show some confidence! Are you not confident enough? Zhang Jun, Zhang Rui, you two have got to make more runs inside the box and stretch their defense. Understand?”
“Right! There’s still 40 minutes left. Prove to everyone that we are not fleeting stars!”