Surrey 4-0 Afghanistan Development
Words and EXCLUSIVE Photos By: Ben Gilby (29/5/22).
Above: Surrey and Afghanistan line up prior to kick-off. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.
Whilst Surrey ran out winners against a hard-working and talented Afghanistan Development squad at Dorking Wanderers’ Meadowbank Stadium today, this was an occasion that was about far more than the action on the pitch.
The very fact that this Afghan team were on the pitch and playing was worth celebration in itself. The squad had to go into hiding and were advised to burn all their football equipment when the Taliban took control of the country last year. In preparation for their emergency flee to the United Kingdom, they had to go into hiding and then had to run the gauntlet of a suicide bomb attack en route to Kabul Airport. This is an incredible group of young female athletes who represented their country with pride, passion, and exceptional skill this afternoon.
The Afghanistan team were extremely well organised, full of pace and in possession of an outstanding goalkeeper who was worthy of a player of the match award. Surrey started well with Lola Meyer threatening from the off. Meyer was another one of the stand-out players of the afternoon, probing and creating non-stop. In the early play, she linked up well with Sarah Chapman to the left of centre. The Afghan custodian was called into action several times and bravely dived at the feet of onrushing Surrey attackers to pounce on the ball.
Chapman was involved in another promising attack for the hosts as she saw a shot come cannoning back off of the crossbar after capitalising on a place-kick which went straight to her. Shortly afterwards, Surrey took the lead when Alice Curr of tier four side Queen’s Park Rangers gained possession and lifted a shot over the Afghan keeper and into the net.
With 25 minutes played, the home captain Lily Davis found Esme Parsons with an inch-perfect long pass. She in turn played in Curr on the left who put in a cross-shot that bounced narrowly wide of the far post.
There was one further opportunity in the first half which fell the way of Eva Keen whose shot looked to be heading in, but a superb diving save from the Afghan goalkeeper ensured that it remained only 1-0 to Surrey at the break.
Two minutes into the second period, Curr hit a long-range rocket from 25 yards which went just wide. Substitute Juliet Jacques got in on the action with a powerful shot from the edge of the box which was well held by the Afghanistan goalkeeper.
With 57 minutes on the clock, Surrey doubled their advantage as Keen fired a shot into the corner of the net.
Afghanistan continued to enjoy possession and looked to work it along the right, but were never quite able to conjure up a final shot to bother Morgan Palmer in the Surrey goal.
As the game entered its final quarter of an hour, substitute Giulia Ciarini Azzi showed her worth with a low shot which the Afghan keeper did well to push out. However, Ciarini Azzi was not to be denied and a minute later she smashed a shot into the top right hand corner of the net from the edge of the box.
She completed the scoring just before the end with an acrobatic effort from Jacques’ right-wing corner.
Surrey’s dominance showed on the scoreboard at the end, but Afghanistan have more than enough skill and potential in their ranks to prove tougher opponents in the future. They are an outstanding group of female athletes and deserved every bit of the wild ovation that greeted them at the end of the match.
Squads: SURREY: Palmer, McAllister, Davis, Alberts, Crook, Keen, Downes-Evans, Parsons, Meyer, Curr, Chapman, Stuart, Gillett, Marr, Ciarini Azzi, Jacques.
Scorers: Curr, Keen, Ciarini Azzi (2).
AFGHANISTAN: Squad names not released due to security concerns for family members back in Afghanistan.