L3 win World Cup on penalties

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jmujwc_JMU Journalism World Cup logov3Level 3 twice came from two goals behind to stage an incredible comeback as they beat the Alumni on penalties in a dramatic JMU Journalism World Cup Final.

Level 3 celebrate winning the 2013 JMU Journalism World Cup Final

Level 3 celebrate winning the 2013 JMU Journalism World Cup Final. Pic by Alice Kirkland

Despite trailing 2-0 and then 4-2, the third years were revived as Jonny Bridge scored two goals in the last 10 minutes to force the final to a shoot-out, where the Alumni side managed to miss all four spot-kicks and Level 3 prevailed by converting two of theirs.

After an epic series of Mind Games in the build-up to the final, new Level 3 manager Ian Bolland had the last word in some style by arriving at IM Marsh immaculately turned-out in a pinstripe suit, flanked by sharp-dressed assistant boss Rory O’Reilly.

But whatever they said to the players before the game did not initially seem to have the desired effect, as Alumni built up a two-goal lead after Dan Burke’s flicked header opened the scoring and Stephen Dickinson’s long-range bobbling drive eluded L3 goalkeeper Joel Richards.

Level 3 celebrate winning the 2013 JMU Journalism World Cup Final

Level 3 celebrate winning the 2013 JMU Journalism World Cup Final. Pic by Alice Kirkland

Level 3 were furious to have a strong penalty appeal turned down but they clawed their way back into the match before half-time from a dead-ball situation when Ryan McCann’s blistering 25-yard free-kick crashed back off the crossbar and into the net off the head of Alumni keeper Kieran Etoria-King.

Captain Rory Kelly had the third years really fired up and he caused havoc in the Alumni penalty box with his long throw-ins in the second half. It was as a result of one of those Delap-style missiles that gave McCann the chance to equalise with a close-range header after Etoria-King had palmed the ball into his path.

Neil Leatherbarrow restored the Alumni’s advantage with a curling free-kick before skipper Chris Shaw lobbed in a fourth that seemed to put the graduates in an unassailable position.

John Barnes sent a message of congratulations to Level 3 after their World Cup win. Pic by Arild Skjaeveland

John Barnes sent a message of congratulations to Level 3 after their World Cup win. Pic by Arild Skjaeveland

Level 3 were reduced to ten men when Eivind Haugstad-Kleiven was sent off for one of his trademark crunching tackles, but the third years were not to be denied as man-of-the-match Bridge’s late double strike made it 4-4, meaning the final would be decided in a shoot-out for the first time since 2010.

Alumni player-manager John Mathews missed the first of their penalties when he hit the bar.

From there it got progressively worse as Dickinson, Leatherbarrow, and Shaw all had shockers from the spot. Although Ryan McCann and Cillian McGinn also failed to convert for the third years, Jon Bridge and Josh Killner made no mistake.

Congratulations go to Level 3, who march towards graduation on a high after securing the JMU Journalism World Cup title under the blue suburban skies of Aigburth.

They had the added bonus of a seal of approval from Liverpool FC legend John Barnes, who sent them a congratulatory photo message after the game.