Cambridge edged Oxford in the Varsity women’s football match on Saturday at Fenner’s. The Light Blues won 4-2 on penalties after a pulsating match was level at 1-1 after extra time.
Having beaten Oxford in the BUCS league 6-0 only three days before the Varsity match, Cambridge were confident of reversing the disappointments of the last two years. Facing a resurgent Oxford team, it was never going to be as easy for the Light Blues.
After a tense start, Cambridge conceded a breakaway goal against the run of play. With the roar of the home supporters, who braved the Arctic conditions, cheering them on, the Light Blues showed great determination and spirit to raise their level. Despite being a goal down, they were the better side going into half time. Having played through an injury for 45 minutes, Cambridge centre forward and last year’s captain, Manon van Thorenburg was forced to come off.
Some excellent play down the right wing between Laura Leyland and Kathryn Savage shook an Oxford side, which appeared to have few answers for Cambridge’s questions.
The number of shots, notwithstanding the fact that most of them were taken from outside the penalty box, showed Cambridge’s sheer desire to equalise.
The Light Blues’ goal eventually came from a corner. Marielle Brown, the central defender whose performance was exemplary throughout, made sure the ball reached the Oxford net after it had run loose in the penalty box. The goal was met with hysteria from players and fans alike.
Thereafter, Beth McGhee, whose strength and skill made her a potent attacking force, driove deep into the Oxford half. However, the pressure from the Light Blues did not produce a winner and the game went into extra time.
Although this might have been a daunting prospect, and it certainly was for the supporters in the biting conditions at Fenner’s, Cambridge rose to the challenge and came close to scoring.
At the end of extra time, the Light Blues captain Amelia Southgate was tasked with raising the weary eleven. Southgate’s leadership had been impeccable. She and vice-captain, Lisa Furtwangler, had shown their qualities despite an ankle injury, a bloodied nose, and a suspected broken rib between them.
In the shootout, McGhee donned the goalkeeper’s jersey and calmly scored the first penalty before taking her position between the goalposts.
Charlie Carr and Melissa Bale then slotted home their penalties. With Oxford missing the two corresponding spot kicks, it came down to Kathryn Savage to win the match for Cambridge. She duly obliged.
After two hours of football with injuries, snow, and Oxford to contend with, Cambridge’s women’s footballers finally secured a thoroughly deserved victory. With the victory, they successfully avenged last year’s defeat to Oxford.