Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 72 - Half-Time[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:36]
Chapter 72: Half-Time
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Ren Yu De recklessly crossed the ball up front. Not willing to let him down, Zhang Jun grabbed the perfect spot and dived for a header! It was an impressive move!
“Zhang Jun’s making an effort! A diving header!”
Zhang Jun nodded the ball firmly and it flew towards the bottom of the post.
A dead angle!
Dingding’s cheerleaders gasped loudly. Their Shu Guang counterparts were already applauding at this point.
“It’s going in!” Wang Qiang could not stop himself from yelling out.
“Not so fast!” Unbelievably, Xia Bo swooped down at the effort and single-handedly slapped it away from the goalpost as it bounced!
The ball went out! There was no goal!
“Beautiful! Xia Bo’s diving save can be compared to that ‘Save of the Century’ by the English goalkeeper, Gordon Banks!” Zhou Jiansheng cried.
Xia Bo held on to one of the steel posts with his other hand to stop himself from crashing into it.
Floored, Zhang Jun thumped the carpet grass, feeling irritated. The last and best chance they had in the first half was miraculously saved with a slap from the opponent’s keeper.
The half-time whistle was blown at the same time and Shu Guang stayed behind Dingding with a 1:2 score after the first half.
The big screen showed a replay of Zhang Jun’s diving header. A camera, which was held up with a mechanical arm had been set up behind the net. It recorded the game from an angle behind the posts and it caught his shot clearly.
That header of his had struck the top of the ball, jouncing it just in front of the line. And Xia Bo palmed the rebound off the line.
Liu Wei quietly exhaled in relief. If Zhang Jun had nodded the ball just a little lower, the ball would have bounced on the line instead of just slightly in front of it. If that had happened, not even the gods could have stopped it.
It was too close一Dingding barely dodged a bullet. His decision to play offside traps on Zhang Jun was correct一just one glancing chance and he almost scored again. If they had allowed him to roam behind in the first half, his team would have most likely been the one lagging behind instead.
“Such a brilliant first half!”
“Indeed, I can’t wait to see their performance in the second half.”
“Zhang Lintao. If it had been you guarding, could you have kept that ball out?” Li Yongle asked.
Shutting his eyes for a while to consider, Zhang Lintao shook his head. “Not even professionals could have kept that out.”
“Ah? Does that mean that Dingding’s goalie is better than a professional already?” Zhang Yang interjected.
“Nope. To me, it was as if the keeper had divine intervention in that exact moment.”
“Divine intervention, divine intervention…” Li Yongle repeated the word.
“Hehe! Don’t bunch your face up like that. Relax, I guarantee that Zhang Jun won’t have such a chance when we play against them!” Zhang Yang patted Lintao on his shoulder. “He’s a genius, and I’ll be the one that vanquishes that genius! Bahahaha!”
Ignoring the slightly neurotic fool, Zhang Lintao turned to Li Yongle. “To be frank, I’m also worried about that Rising Dragon. High School Soccer merely described it as ‘unbelievable’. Sima Hongxin’s a great goalkeeper too. He was fearless against Yang Pan’s powerful drives, but he was beaten by that move and he looked like a different man afterwards. I really want to witness that ‘unbelievable Rising Dragon’!”
Li Yongle nodded, smiling meaningfully. “Me too. He’s learnt another formidable trick! It’ll be even more worthwhile when we meet!”
Shu Guang locker room.
Ren Yu De was carried in with a stretcher. Just one look and Liang Ke was already thinking about his replacement in the second half.
Quite a few players complained noisily in the room, disappointed that such a gorgeous effort from Zhang Jun did not go in.
Li Jieguang asked An Ke if that had been him, could he have stopped it.
An Ke waved it off indifferently. “A mere trifle!”
Clearly not buying it, Li Jieguang glared at him and muttered under his breath, “What a fart!”
Naturally, he made sure that An Ke could not hear it, or the keeper’s ensuing rampage would ruin their precious half-time break with another chaotic melee. It may have even raised “An Ke’s Rampage” to fourth place in Shu Guang’s Demonic Rankings.
In their half-time talk, Liang Ke only discussed a few concerns regarding their defense in the next half, skipping any mention of the annoyances Zhang Jun and the forwards faced. He maintained his belief that Shu Guang’s offensive should be intelligent; they should not be wrapped and tangled by procedures or tactics so that the students could express themselves freely.
That was why he unleashed the forwards instead of telling them what to do. And as a matter of fact, it worked.
Shu Guang having the best attacking prowess was proof.
Therefore, he would insist that they stayed that way in the current match despite their impressive opponents. Because, he believed in his players, that they would be able to solve the problem themselves.
Dingding locker room.
Xia Bo was surrounded by his teammates.
“That was great! How did you make that save just now?”
“That’s right. If that had been me, I wouldn’t even dare to dive for it—I’d hit the post!”
“That’s the difference between a starter and a reserve!”
Unexpectedly, Xia Bo was not laughing. He did not accept the praises unabashedly, and say things like, “A mere trifle!”, “Not even worth mentioning!” or “Small problem”.
Instead, with a serious look, he said, “Actually, I only knew that I should try to save it at the time, but I never thought that I actually could…”
Everyone was left dumbfounded for a few moments before they laughed out loud.
“Damn! Xia Bo has changed today. Since when did he become humble?”
“Maybe he’s possessed?”
“Hey! Don’t say such unlucky things!”
Liu Wei clapped his hands once, and the room fell silent in an instant.
“The first half was pretty much a success. We have the lead and we’ve stopped their assault. So, there will be no change to our tactics in the second half. But, keep an eye on Yu De just the same. Don’t relax against him just because he looks tired. I believe everyone managed to see his performance just now? Never underestimate him while you stay on Zhang Jun.”
This prompted a little commotion amongst the team members. They witnessed how Ren Yu De shook two of their guys off before crossing the ball with utmost precision despite being pressured by Shi Yan.
Shi Yan could still see it clearly: how Ren Yu De played a stepover and moved one step forward. Stepover and move. Stepover and move. Stepover and move.
When he played another stepover and Shi Yan thought he would move ahead as usual, the cross came, blindsiding him.
“I won’t let him off even if he can’t stand!” Shi Yan muttered quietly.
Fan Cunjie had taken notice of that No.9 too; his tricks were on par with his own although they were not of the same mold. His own dribbles would signal an attack and they were used to quickly shake his markers off.
On the other hand, Ren Yu De was an adept trickster who would start off with a string of feints to trap an opponent. He would then patiently wait for the right timing to get away. That was the case with Su Rui, who was deceived by Yu De’s “pulling mistake” and lost his chance.
Still, his fatal weakness was his physical endurance—it was most likely that he would not be much of a danger on the pitch in the second half.
Zhang Jun removed his captain armband and examined it carefully in his hand.
Yang Pan did that once before too. Back then, he said that he was unfit to wear it, but he had proved to be a fine captain. For Zhang Jun, wearing it had always seemed so cool; he never thought that it was a responsibility and such an immense one at that.
They were behind and Ren Yu De was fatigued—he would probably not last the entire second half. On top of that, Zhang Jun was bogged down by offside traps himself and was at his wit’s end.
What a poor excuse for a captain!
Liang Ke looked at his watch; time was almost up.
“Yuan Shuai, take Ren Yu De’s place in the second half.”
But just as he uttered those words, Ren Yu De who was covering his face with a towel and lying on the bench, sat up in one breath.
“I can still play,” he told his coach with determination.
He was still breathing heavily at this point. Liang Ke looked at him and then at his watch. This went on for a few cycles before the coach nodded.
“Alright. But, I’ll sub you off the moment you can’t keep up.”
“You have that much faith in Zhang Jun?” Zhang Yang asked Li Yongle. “His opponent’s Dingding. They’re unlike the others before! Their offside strategy in the first half have been very successful too…”
“Zhang Jun’s diving header has reassured me,” Li Yongle answered. “He will surprise us in the second half. We just have to wait and see…”
At the stands, two Shu Guang students were arguing.
“Yang Pan is guaranteed to return after the half-time break. Maybe he’s in the locker room changing right now!”
“Rubbish! Yang Pan can’t get back in time! It’s better to cheer for the 11 players than expect his return to save the day!”
“Hmph! Shu Guang can’t beat Dingding without Yang Pan! When the time comes, Yang Pan will soar down from the skies and score with a single shot…”
“You’ve watched too many martial arts movies, idiot!”
“Hey! What are you saying…”
“Both of you shut up!” Liu Qi could not stand the squabble and he broke it up with a roar. “Save your breath for the second half!”
“Let’s go!” Liang Ke clapped his hands and shouted, bringing his team as well as himself into attention.
The squad shuffled out of the door and walked onto the pitch.
Zhang Jun rose and caught Su Fei’s stare.
The pair did not say a word to each other during the break; their glance however, meant everything.
He reattached the captain’s armband, took a deep breath and went out the door. At the end of the hallway, where thunderous applause filled the area, the sunlit field was his battlefield.