Gareth Bale may have hogged the headlines since his move from Tottenham to Real Madrid, but creative midfielder Darren Jones stole the show for Edinburgh City Real 13s in their 4-2 win over Spartans Reds.
The No.10 was on fire for the all whites in their Division 2 encounter at Forrester High School, with his flair in behind the City strikers causing all sorts of trouble for the Spartans defence.
City could have come away with a healthier win but, in the end, they weren’t left to rue a first half of missed chances.
The home side were on top from the off, with confidence high after an eight-goal victory over Polbeth Dynamos in the first round of the SYFA Challenge Cup, and they opened the scoreline after just four minutes.
Drew MacKay turned expertly in the box to create some space for himself and his low shot found the bottom corner of the net.
Striker David Forbes was given the chance to double City’s lead moments later but he couldn’t get his effort on target and it went over the bar of Cameron Quate’s goal.
Midfielder Jones was first to demonstrate his ability after interlinking well with MacKay inside Spartans’ half and he drove into the box after exchanging a one-two but wasn’t able to test Quate.
City goalkeeper Kyle Wilson was a spectator in the opening half hour, with Spartans’ diminutive front line being marshalled well by the City defence.
MacKay and Jones were dominating the midfield area for City and their passes were splitting open the Reds at ease, but all City were missing was a ruthlessness in front of goal as they looked to increase their lead.
They did eventually double their lead after numerous opportunities when striker Michael Reilly pounced on a defensive slip-up from Spartans to finish high into the net.
Five minutes before half-time, Spartans pulled one back when Joshua Clark capitalised on a City defensive error and found the net with his side’s first shot on target.
It wasn’t long after the break that City had regained their two-goal advantage when substitute Ben MacLeod’s great ball found its way to Hamish Glashan and his strike left Quate with no chance as he powered it past the goalkeeper.
Glashan tested Quate again shortly after, but the goalkeeper came out on top this time. The ball into the box from Zak Nicol bounced around in the area but Glashan managed to get a toe on it to divert it towards the bottom corner, only for Quate to dive to his right to tip it behind.
Reilly was holding the ball up well in attack as City pressed for another goal, while he was also proving a handful for Spartans whenever he dropped back to link up with his midfield.
However, it was Spartans who gave themselves a fighting chance when they reduced the deficit to 3-2. Clark did well down the right to get a cross into the box and Joe Lyall finished past Wilson.
City were clearly wary of conceding another and dropped back a little as they tried to soak up pressure from Spartans.
Wilson was called into action when a ball from Cai Macdonald over the defence put Lyall through but the keeper emerged from his goal confidently to avert any danger. City sealed all three points in style with their fourth in the final minute.
Spartans’ Quate was unable to get any real distance on his goal kick and the ball found its way straight to Nicol, whose first-time shot from 30 yards sent the ball looping over the head of Quate and into the net to seal victory.
Edinburgh City Real: Kyle Wilson, Calum Page, Sean McGarry, Callum Jardine, Cian Robertson, Ryan Jones, Drew MacKay, Hamish Glashan, David Forbes, Michael Reilly, Liam Ramsay, Ben MacLeod, Callum Scott, Zak Nicol.
Spartans Reds: Cameron Quate, James Larkin, Louis Benfield, Sonny Robertson, Archie Roscoe, Joe Lyall, Joshua Clark, Cai Macdonald, Joseph Coats, Robbie Ashdown-Adams, Felix Barley, Joseph Healey.