Marineris - Solis, Aquarius 1, 2077, m249
The playoff stakes were high entering the final match in Week 20 of MAFL play as the Immortals entered hostile ground @ Marineris stadium. The prize: 2nd seed overall.
With the poor play of late for the Titans, some doubt the Titans will even make it past the 1st round thus the 2nd seed could very well be a golden ticket to home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The intensified level of play was in full display as both teams came in taking more risks, playing more aggressively, playing like there was no tomorrow.
And before the end of this match, there would be no tomorrow for a number of players.
Immortals Chamunda Badal was the second goalkeeper to fall today, the other being Wuji's Trenton Seaton. Badal was injured after a mad scramble for a loose ball in front of the goal resulted in the Comets Marysa Waaijer and Badal ultimately crashing into each other. A remorseful Waaijer immediately consoled a motionless Badal, before being sent off with a Red Card.
The referee granted a 10 minute timeout for Immortals Manager, Andam Mirza, to suit up a replacement. #15 Defender Tia Mancebo came in to make her debut as a goalkeeper having only played the position in practise.
At the 30th minute, Comets Caleb Houghton quickly turned and blindly ran into the Immortals Uday Lanka who inadvertently collided with the Comets Susanna Shelton. The severe collision resulted in Shelton being carted off with a broken arm, ending her chances to participate in the championship run.
To add salt to the wound, Houghton was given a Yellow Card, a Free Kick was awarded to the Immortals and Akkilic Talpur curled a rocket over two defenders and over a leaping Comets goalkeeper into the far top corner for the 1st goal of the match.
The Comets responded three minutes later when Stephen Liu steered home a goal following a pass from Liddell Bradley to tie up the match.
Just before the end of the 1st half at the 43rd minute, another wild loose ball scramble saw the Immortals Hama dive for it but alas her boot connected more with Kemina De Marco’s ankle than the ball, adding De Marco to the casualty list.
At the end of the 1st half with the score tied 1 – 1 and with three injuries , the referee gave strict warning to both teams as each manager respectively pleaded innocence over ignorance of match rules.
Despite this, at the 52th minute, as Comets Yamen Warren went up for a header, a late boost leap from the Immortals Jag Parkar resulted in an errant blow to Warren’s helmet, shattering the faceplate and sending Warren crashing head-first onto the pitch.
The EV Suit automatically deployed the emergency life support airbag while referee-bots and ground crew immediately rushed in. Warren was stabilized and then quickly rushed to the Marineris Hospital facility. Though his environmental exposure was limited thanks to the safety countermeasures, the club reported he had suffered severe head and neck trauma.
MAFL league officials will further review the play to determine if Parkar breached any of the MAFL head shot rules.
And yet the show must go on. But for the next 30 minutes, the players appeared to be cautiously going through the motions as Warren’s injury was a morbid reminder of mortality on Mars.
Until the expiration of time finally sparked life in the Comets as Liu deflected the ball in off his knee for the go ahead goal at the 82th minute.
Shortly afterwards, in a desperate attempt to protect their slim lead, Comets defender Néstor Ramirez grabbed and held the Immortals Uday Lanka who tripped into the Comets Amanda Coronel who was following too closely. Coronel crashed into the ground and would need to be taken off the field with broken bones.
With time quickly elapsing, at the 91st minute, the Immortals midfielder Tulaih Azizi attempted to dribble away from an attacking Alessandro Ferraz within the Immortals own penalty area.
Azizi’s back pass caught the Immortals’ substitute goalkeeper, Mancebo, by surprise, ending up in the Immortal’s own net.
Ferraz was awarded the third goal in what would be the Final 3 – 1 victory for the Comets.
The Immortals drop to 11 and 10 for the season while the Comets move to 13 and 7 and clinch the 2nd seed overall. But at what cost?
2 Red Cards, 3 Yellow Cards, 5 injuries – One Life Threatening.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for us,” said Comets Manager Gordan J. Pryce. “Both teams played their guts out today but unfortunately, we’re guilty of our own aggressive play. We accidently took out 2 of our own players and now we have to grind it out in the playoffs without 4 of our key people.”
If this match is any indication of the excitement that awaits in the playoffs, MAFL fans only need to wait one more week. And in Week 21, the final two playoff spots will be determined.
The third and fourth playoff spots are still up for grabs where 2 of the following 3 teams will go in: The Immortals, Al’amal, and the Dynamo. Who will it be? We’ll see you in Week 21.