Chapter 89: That pandemonic confession (4)
Before the infuriated gazes of Jianhai Technological University’s coach and captain, Xu Tingsheng smiled before lifting his index finger and bringing it lightly to his lips, “Shhh.” The meaning therein: Shut up.
The entire stadium was silent. Earlier, after Xu Tingsheng had finished hugging his teammates, apart from Jianhai Technological University’s coach and captain who had been in the midst of a tactical meeting, virtually everyone else had had their gazes on him, thinking as he walked towards the sidelines: What’s he gonna do?
Lu Zhixin and her roommate had even been rather joyful, thinking that he was finally coming over to confess.
Then, Xu Tingsheng had done something that everyone of Yanzhou University wished to do, returning the previous humiliation that had been inflicted on them in kind.
You wanted Yanzhou University’s crowds to ‘shut up’? I’ll throw that ‘shut up’ right back in your face.
You asked if we can still continue laughing? I’ll have the entire stadium laugh for you to see.
Now, an uproar.
After the silence came the laughter, the applause, the shouting, “His mother, how great this feels!”
Perhaps Huang Yaming was right. In having gone on and scored, next returning their humiliation in kind…at this moment, at least, Xu Tingsheng was Yanzhou University’s hero.
Fortunately, the ladies were still reserved. It was fortunate that they would not yet have learned that phrase which would become popular ten years down the road: XXX, I want to birth ‘monkeys’ for you!
Otherwise, how tired Xu Tingsheng would be.
Jianhai Technological University’s captain, that No.10 star player who had always remained calm and arrogant up till now, finally lost it with this humiliation. Unable to suppress his fury, he lunged over and pushed Xu Tingsheng. The players of both teams as well as the spectators on site began to clamor.
The referee quickly ran over and separated the two of them. One yellow card each, breaking apart the commotion.
The whistle blew; the match resumed.
Xu Tingsheng had returned to the pitch.
“Zhixin…this…he,” Lu Zhixin’s roommate trailed off in her words.
“He…he didn’t have a choice. The referee gave him a card and hurried him back,” Lu Zhixin bit her lips, feeling somewhat unresigned as well as despondent yet not really being able to say anything about it.
Counting injury time, there were perhaps still three minutes before the end of the match. These three minutes would be incomparably long for Yanzhou University. They would have to face that final frenzied counterattack by Jianhai Technological University following their conceded goal.
“Everyone, hold on tight! We’ll make it through this!” The captain shouted loudly, his fist clenched tightly as he shook it.
Xu Tingsheng remained on their opponents’ half of the pitch, not returning.
“Xu Tingsheng, come back and help to defend!” The captain shouted.
Actually, looking at the current situation, the captain’s analysis and call were right, could not be more right. It was impossible for Yanzhou University to obtain another chance. Xu Tingsheng remaining in that half served no purpose at all aside from occupying the attention of two Jianhai Technological University defenders. He probably wouldn’t even get to receive the ball again.
On one hand, it was impossible for Yanzhou University to launch another frenzied all-out ball-stealing bid. That would be too risky, and their players had already used up all of their stamina in that last wave of frenzied offence. Their sole goal now was making it through these final three minutes, awaiting the penalty shootout.
On the other hand, Xu Tingsheng had already gained sufficient worth in the eyes of their opponents. A tall Jianhai Technological University defender followed him closely, continuously being up to some little tricks. Another defender stood around two to three metres away from him, prepared to intercept any incoming passes directed towards him at any time.
Like this, even managing to receive a pass over where he was just seemed like a distant, far-fetched dream.
However, he shook his head towards the captain in refusal.
Currently, Yanzhou University’s defence consisted of people piled up before the goal. The addition of a single Xu Tingsheng might be of some use, but it wouldn’t be to the extent where it affected the entire trajectory of things. Also, if he returned, Jianhai Technological University would be able to press in completely on their goal without any reservation whatsoever, with the pressure on them only being even greater.
Therefore, Xu Tingsheng was more useful remaining on their opponents’ half of the pitch than their own.
Actually, Xu Tingsheng still had a worry, a worry that he couldn’t voice out: He was not confident in Yanzhou University’s chances of winning the upcoming penalty shootout.
Yanzhou University held an advantage in neither stamina nor prowess. Even while they had trained in penalties for the entire past year, the overbearing pressure and their limp legs would still affect their performance…
If it really went to penalties, Yanzhou University’s chances of winning wouldn’t be more than thirty percent.
And if Yanzhou University failed in the penalty shootout, what awaited them might be a humiliation ten times, perhaps even a hundred times more intense than before. Their two sides having already reached an irreconcilable stage, neither would leave behind any bit of face for the other. The Jianhai Technological University team definitely wouldn’t let this chance go.
Therefore, Xu Tingsheng wanted to try, try ‘killing off’ this match beforehand…
The problem was: How might he try when he wasn’t even able to receive the ball?
At the end of the day, Xu Tingsheng was not that kind of rigid, faultlessly honest person. Also, he was far more mature and experienced than these youngsters here. He had played many years of street soccer before. He, was very crafty.
Xu Tingsheng had watched the entire match prior to this off the pitch. While the spectators had been watching the game, he had been watching it as well. However, his perspective and standpoint had been different. To be precise, while the spectators were mostly watching just for the fun of it, he had been observing and pondering on the proceedings.
Back then, Xu Tingsheng had discovered something that he could potentially make use of. Jianhai University’s captain…just loved acting cool way too much. Every time he received the ball in the midfield, he would always trap the ball beneath his foot and pause for a moment with very much the flair of a great general observing the situation on the battlefield before lightly sending the ball forward, following up and beginning with the attack.
To be honest, this action was indeed a rather cool one, giving off the feeling of being in complete control of the battlefield with there being no situation that he might be unable to react to.
However, as Xu Tingsheng saw it, this was literally asking for the ball to be stolen. Acting cool would call forth heavenly thunder! He was just asking for it.
Xu Tingsheng’s chance would lie with stealing the ball from right beneath his foot.
Also, Xu Tingsheng knew that he was currently really furious. Xu Tingsheng thought that it would be better the more furious he was. Therefore, in these final three minutes, he would ‘chat’ with him a little every time the two passed by each other.
Jianhai Technological University’s captain stood near the centre of the pitch most of the time, being in charge of overseeing the overall situation. The ball would first arrive at his feet before almost every single attack, with he being the one who would launch them.
Xu Tingsheng remained near the centre of the pitch, saying, “Before the match, I heard that you were once considered for Jianhai Province’s all-star starting lineup. I really admired you…yet in this match, I totally couldn’t tell it at all! Sigh, to think I had originally still thought of getting your autograph.”
“Had you ever thought that this might happen today? …Totally not, right? Haha, let me tell you. Life is always full of surprises, and these unexpected things always make life all that more exciting. You should learn to take things as they come…”
“Do you feel that it was me or you who was cooler in performing that ‘shut up’? …I feel that it was me, because I’m a bit more handsome than you anyway.”
“Do you really feel like beating me up right now? …To be honest, even I myself feel a little like beating me up right now. What a bastard!”
“For some reason, I just really feel like chatting with you…are you free right now?”
“Hey, don’t go away! Let’s chat for a little while more…Senior, you’re so shy.”
This seemed to be Xu Tingsheng’s first time having done something so childish and ‘scoundrelly’ ever since his rebirth. For some reason, it was only ever when Xu Tingsheng played football that he would seem to have returned completely to his youthful days, truly resembling a male university student, a silly and childish brat.
Trash talk was also a part of competition, even while it was more commonly seen on the basketball court.
As Jianhai Technological University’s offence persisted, Yanzhou University’s defenders gave it their all time and time again, fervently blocking and clearing the ball almost blindly or bravely throwing their bodies in its path to block it.
In the final minute of injury time, the ball returned to the midfield once more, now trapped beneath the foot of Jianhai Technological University’s No.10.
Having been biding this opportunity for the longest time, Xu Tingsheng sped rapidly over from behind him, turning and lowering his body as he performed an action similar to a sweeping kick, his right leg sweeping across the ground, intercepting the ball…next taking the ball and penetrating straight into the heart of enemy territory.
Jianhai Technological University’s No.10 was chasing after him.
Xu Tingsheng didn’t even have to look back to know that he must currently be gnashing his teeth. As soon as he managed to draw near, what awaited Xu Tingsheng would be a harsh sliding tackle that sent both striker and ball flying.
His speed was around the same as Xu Tingsheng’s, both being around upper average. When he turned, Xu Tingsheng had already pulled a distance away from him, with it not going to be easy for him to catch up.
Therefore, as soon as Xu Tingsheng was around 25 metres away from the goal, he began intentionally lowering his speed, waiting for him. Yes, waiting for him.
There were still three Jianhai Technological University defenders on the edge of the penalty box. Xu Tingsheng was not proficient in dribbling his way through defences. He had the self-awareness that it would be impossible for him to manage a high-difficulty movement like dribbling past all three of them and taking a shot. As soon as he neared the edge of the penalty box, he would be flanked and the ball would be stolen away from him.
Therefore, Xu Tingsheng actually planned for something else, already having decided on this long before having stolen away the ball. His true motive was to get their captain to make a foul, bringing forth a free kick before the penalty area.
It was precisely because of this that he had endlessly provoked the guy with trash talk earlier. It had all been to bring up his ‘rage meter’, inducing him to go in for a slide tackle later on.
It was precisely because of this that he was gradually lowering his speed…waiting, waiting for the enraged Jianhai Technological University’s No.10 to draw near…to slide him.
Behind him resounded heavy breathing, the sound of someone dropping to the ground, the characteristic sound of an incoming sliding tackle.
Xu Tingsheng lightly moved the ball aside, remaining where he was in anticipation.
It happened all as predicted, Xu Tingsheng rolling across the ground a few times, a footprint left behind on his calf that was swollen and bleeding. The referee promptly flashed a yellow card at Jianhai Technological University’s No.10. Two yellows became a red, and Jianhai Technological University’s star player, their captain…was sent off.
There was no dispute, no doubt. It had been a clear and indisputable foul. Many were still feeling indignation as well as worry on Xu Tingsheng’s behalf. That sliding tackle from behind had indeed appeared much too violent and aggressive.
It was just this No.10 who suddenly came to the realisation that he had been set up. Having once been considered for Jianhai Province’s all-star starting lineup, as Jianhai Technological University’s experienced captain and undisputed star player, he had been set up by and fallen to this year one newcomer of Yanzhou University.
Looking at Xu Tingsheng as he crawled up from the ground, he didn’t lunge over infuriated. This had always been a part of competition. It was he who had been too arrogant, had viewed the match too simply, to the point of having lost his cool having met with a setback later on…
At this moment, he instead felt a sense of release as he smiled bitterly, saying to Xu Tingsheng, “I hope that your free kick is not as good as mine.”
Having said that, he calmly left the pitch.
Still, those of Yanzhou University were not released of their need to vent. What greeted him was the loudest booing and mocking laughter. In truth, there was never any true right or wrong in such matters. It was merely subjective.
He had wounded Yanzhou University’s honour, bringing them humiliation. Then, he had paid the price for his deed. It was merely that.
In the final moments of the match, Yanzhou University won a free kick right outside of the penalty box. If it went in, it would effectively kill off the match. If it didn’t, the two sides would enter a penalty shootout.
“You take it. No pressure,” The captain said.
Xu Tingsheng nodded, rubbing his calf that was still throbbing slightly.
All present held their breaths, awaiting the final verdict. Xu Tingsheng…
Placed the ball.
Took a few steps back.
Began his run-up.
Leaned backwards and slightly to the right.
His inner right foot contacted the bottom of the ball.
The net shook.
2 : 1
The match was over.
Yanzhou University had scored two consecutive goals in the final ten minutes of extra time, staging a dramatic reversal over Jianhai University as they killed their way into the next round of the University Football Confederations Cup’s preliminaries.
The swordsman picked up the white gloves that he had thrown towards his opponent, wiping off the bloodstains on the blade of his sword, sheathing it back into its scabbard.