Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 15[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:19]
Chapter 15: Birthday Present
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Ren Yu De was on the ground, thinking back to what Liang Ke said. “Are you not confident enough?”
“What a joke!” He smiled. He looked back to when he had just enrolled into middle school. There was one occasion where he played soccer with strangers who were much larger than him. But when he got the ball, he plunged ahead towards the opposition’s goalpost as he dribbled past five of their players―he even tripped their goalkeeper in the end just before he knocked the ball into an empty net.
The high schoolers were speechless at the sight. They had never seen a brat who was that good.
Looking at the Nanyang defense now, he smirked coldly. “I’m not confident enough? Liang Ke, you’re pissing me off!”
“Ren Yu De!” Wang Bo called as he passed the ball to his teammate.
Ren Yu De received it and immediately ran into a Nanyang defender. He lowered his back as he stared tightly at his opponent. Looking at his flawless stance, the defender did not extend his leg to make a challenge. It was then that Ren Yu De began to sway like a moving clock, with his legs running circles around the ball.
Stepover! It was a skill once used brilliantly by Brazil’s Denilson as he dribbled against the Netherlands team in the 1998 World Cup. It became an iconic scene in that tournament.
Now, Ren Yu De was reliving that scene in a high school soccer match; his skillful trick conjured images of that unforgettable summer in France. His marker froze for a moment in indecision, and Ren took that opportunity to dash past him. Leaving him behind, he did not make for the corner instead, he changed directions and went inside Nanyang’s box. The team’s entire defense panicked. If they ignored him, he would shoot; if they closed in on him, they would be leaving other players unmarked―the two Shu Guang strikers were not useless, were they?
There was little time left for them to even think and Ren Yu De was prepared to shoot. A center back made his choice and charged at him. But even with little space, Ren Yu De turned and left a second player behind!
The Nanyang back line was now left in utter disarray, and Ren Yu De saw through the crowd that the Nanyang goal was left wide open; holding his markers off, he promptly slipped a pass in front. Knowing his cue, Zhang Jun ran up. But when he was preparing to shoot, Liu Tie intercepted the ball and knocked it out of bounds.
One of the defenders headed clear the ensuing corner. The ball fell to Su Li’s feet and he passed it to Zhang Jun again―but Liu Tie was so close to him, he could not turn, much less attempt a shot.
Strikers who were unable to shoot were of not much use.
“This won’t do! Zhang Jun can’t even turn; how can he score? I came to watch him score!”
Chen Huafeng turned to see a few fans voicing out their opinions.
“How about this, the attacking midfielder can play some through passes that will set Zhang Jun free for runs; it would probably be more effective.”
In his heart, Chen Hua Feng knew that these guys were right. Through balls were among the methods that could help shake off a man-to-man defense.
Yang Pan received the ball once again as Shu Guang maintained their encirclement on Nanyang. Zhang Jun ran towards the penalty area and Yang Pan decisively made a through pass! Zhang Jun sped ahead while he took occasional glimpses to check where the ball was going―only to see the pass being cut off by Liu Tie.
The ball went out of the baseline. Zhang Jun wiped the sweat off his face and was left staring at Liu Tie’s back. Quite the tough guy, he thought. He lifted his head to check the time. “Just 20 minutes left, not good! If I don’t think of something, Su Fei’s birthday present is going down the dumps!”
Another delivery from Yang Pan was knocked out of bounds by a Nanyang defender―but that was when Zhang Jun had an epiphany. He ran to the corner area, tugged at Yang Pan and whispered into his ear.
“What? Can you get to it?” Yang Pan said with a face of disbelief.
“Just try it! If we don’t score from this, the last minutes of this game are gonna be very tough.”
“Alright then, I won’t hold back.”
“Nobody’s holding you back. But, you have to guarantee that you’ll get me the ball.”
“Still not confident about my feet?”
The referee approached them, gesturing for the corner to be taken. High-fiving Yang Pan, Zhang Jun ran back into the penalty area.
Liu Tie saw the cheerful expression on Zhang Jun’s face but did not know what he was up to. His only option was to stay on Zhang Jun at all costs; his teammates would handle other Shu Guang players. After five more minutes, their stamina would drop drastically and then, it would be all about Nanyang.
The referee whistled as Yang Pan stood by the corner flag. However, his stance was entirely different. He ran to the ball and raised his foot… Every Shu Guang player knew, it was his long shot stance!
“Has he gone mad?!” An Ke screamed at the top of his lungs.
The ball darted out like a cannonball at an unbelievable speed. The Nanyang defense were appalled at the sight of such an incredible ball and subconsciously dodged it. Liu Tie saw it too, but what shocked him was Zhang Jun, who began his run when Yang Pan took the corner. As the ball arrived, he leaped with precise timing. He kicked the ball and volleyed! But, it was not a pass at all! With that speed and power, the ball was a shot one way or another!
A loud noise rang, and every player on the pitch was left watching the ball as it lay quietly in Nanyang’s net. Yang Pan was the first to break the silence as he cried out from the corner flag. Zhang Jun picked himself off the ground and ran towards him with arms wide open.
1 : 0! Shu Guang had finally broken the stalemate!
But the crowd did not react much; not many could clearly see everything that just happened. It took about one second from the corner for the goal to be scored, and without a large screen in the stadium, there was no replay of the scene. Still, the scoreboard clearly stated 1 : 0, with Shu Guang ahead after breaking the impasse on the twenty-second minute of the second half. If Nanyang wanted to win this now, they could not just defend, they had to attack. But if they did, they would simply be playing into Shu Guang’s hands; they specialized in games where teams pit their own attack against theirs.
Liu Tie was agonized. His single mistake had led to an unsalvageable situation. The entire team’s 62 minutes’ worth of hard work went down the drain and the coach’s arrangements before the game were also useless. Now, as captain, he had to make a choice, to attack or defend?
The answer was obvious; they could lose the game if they attacked, but if they did not they would definitely lose.
With only a wave from their captain’s hand, the team shifted their formation from 532 to 352; two of their defenders on the flanks shifted to the midfield flanks, assuming an attack formation.
Nanyang began their courageous attacks after the match resumed. It was rare to see them moving forward in purposeful aggression, but they were threatening whenever they did. Although their attacking midfielder was an average player, their two strikers―one was tall and the other, fast―could prove to be devastating when it came to long balls.
Liu Tie delivered one and the 189-cm tall Liu Yun easily headed it away from Su Li! Li Pengfei got to it and sprinted towards the Shu Guang goal. He used his speed to dodge the challenge of Shu Guang’s No. 4, Li Xiaopeng. Then, as he faced Li Jieguang, he shifted directions and dribbled past him too!
But as soon as he arrived at the box, Pengfei was stunned to find that An Ke had dived in front of his feet. The sight made him leap instinctively and so, the ball was claimed by An Ke.
“Attack!” An Ke shouted as he cleared the ball forward with one kick.
Wang Bo fought hard for the header and passed it to Ren Yu De, who once again used his dazzling technique to move into the Nanyang area. He took a shot but their keeper got to the ball with a diving save and a defender cleared the loose ball.
Time quietly passed as both sides unleashed their intense onslaught. The score stayed at 1 : 0.
During that period, Zhang Jun felt that his right ankle―the one he used for the volleyed strike―was beginning to hurt and affect his running. Maybe it was due to the forceful redirecting of Yang Pan’s shot; it was not a laughing matter to do it with a ball traveling at 180 km/h after all.
The ball was passed to Wang Bo from a Shu Guang throw-in, and upon seeing two Nanyang players closing in, he passed it to Zhang Jun hurriedly. The ball bounced a little over a pebble in front of the Shu Guang striker and suddenly, finding inspiration, Zhang Jun finally found a way to rid himself of the pesky No. 5.
Sticking close to Liu Tie as the ball came, Zhang Jun used a hooking motion with the tip of his foot to lob the ball over both himself and the defender, right before he promptly turned. Having no line of sight, Liu Tie was unable to see what was happening. He turned when he saw Zhang Jun turn. The movement translated into inertia and he was held back from a quick recovery―when he finally turned around, Zhang Jun already got the ball right to the front of the goal.
At long last, Zhang Jun felt relief from the pressure of being marked for over 60 minutes. He entered the area with total freedom like a dragon in the sea and took a shot after felling another defender! The ball went in underneath the keeper!
2 : 0! Zhang Jun bagged a brace after 72 minutes! Shu Guang had doubled their advantage!
The stands were a sight of celebration.
But the scorer did nothing of the sort. He ran inside the net, retrieved the ball and ran back towards the center circle, leaving both squads confused. What team who was ahead would hope for their opposition to restart the game quickly?
Only Su Fei, who was sitting beside Liang Ke understood. There was one more goal needed to complete her birthday present and there was eight minutes left.
Still struggling to understand how the ball got behind him, Liu Tie began to lose concentration during the rest of the game.
Zhang Jun was on the ball, but he did not approach to challenge. Instead, he made the vital mistake of getting into a face-to-face duel with the striker, who calmly feinted, shifted heading and accelerated! Liu Tie was now right behind him!
Facing a fearsome center back charging at him, Zhang Jun passed the ball to Yang Pan on the flank while he continued his run towards the goal. Yang Pan understood the play and quickly delivered a return pass. One-two!
Now facing the keeper alone, Zhang Jun feinted a shot to the left and the keeper obediently dived over in that direction. The only thng left was for Zhang Jun to pull to the right and prod the ball into the net towards an empty goal.
Just three minutes before the match ended, Zhang Jun had contributed decisively for Shu Guang, allowing their entrance into the third-round, the quarter-finals.
By that point, nobody really cared about the final minutes; the Shu Guang High School students were already cheering for the win on the stands. Their football team had always been trampled upon and now that their moment had finally come, how could they not be happy?
It was an ocean of joy when the referee blew the final whistle. With resounding cheers, nutty celebrations and swarming reporters, it was the same scene as last week―in fact, it was much livelier and crazier today!
This time, Su Fei chose to watch the raucous quietly at the side. Hat-trick hero, Zhang Jun became the center of attention, with layers upon layers of fans and journalists surrounding him.
“You’ll see! The match this week, I will score three myself!”
“No! It’s my birthday gift to you!”
Their conversation a few days ago rang in her ears.
“Thank you! This is the best birthday present ever!”