JC CYRIL ANEKSTEIN CUP SEMI-FINAL
LONDON MACCABI LIONS A 3 FAITHFOLD A 2
London Maccabi Lions A reached the JC League Cup final after crushing Faithfold's treble hopes in a thrilling encounter at Rowley Lane.
Both teams were without some of their regular players, but Lions kept their heads in front from start to finish.
Lions opened the scoring around the 30-minute mark after a strong tackle in the middle of the park from Aron Barnes was followed by an excellent ball out to the right for the returning James Gershfield, who had been out with ankle ligament damage for two months. Gershfield took it to the bye-line and crossed superbly for the advancing TJ Keterman to hit it in with the outside of the foot. 1-0 Lions.
The wind and rain did not helped either team, and probably on balance Faithfold were a little unlucky to be behind at the interval. Lions were still not operating at full capacity and they were told so in no uncertain terms by manager Andy Landesberg that the first half performance would not get them to the final.
Lions pressed higher up the pitch In second half and started to play a little better, although the game remained scrappy. A corner was won by Lions and a quality delivery by Tony Gold was headed home by centre half Nick Landesberg to double Lions' advantage.
Faithfold continued to play their normal passing game, and after 20 minutes into the second half the visitors closed the gap and made for a tense last 20 minutes with Jonny Haik making it 2-1.
Faithfold kept pushing forward, but the organised Lions defence kept them at bay. Lions had made their first substitution with David Nezri replacing skipper Yoav Lebens. Nezri started to influence the game, and a great through ball by Aviel Schwarz sent Gershfield away on the right hand edge of the box, he clinically side-footed home past the advancing Faithfold keeper.
Lions made their second substitution with Keterman being replaced by Matt Perlman which was followed by their final substitution with 10 minutes to go, Nick Lewis replacing Gershfield.
Faithfold continued to threaten and show the determination that has helped them reach the final of the London FA Sunday Intermediate Cup. Having missed a gilt-edged header from six yards, Dan Perkins made it 3-2 with five minutes remaining to set up a grandstand finish but the Lions saw the game out and to seal a place in the final where they will play Redbridge Jewish Care A at Wingate & Finchley.
Jubilant Lions manager Andy Landesberg told JC Sport: "We had the mix of youth, quality and experience - with five players in the squad today under the age of 20, and at the other end of the scale we had the timeless Tony Gold and Aviel Schwarz. Everybody from 1 to 14 put in a huge shift today for this team, and especially the Club.
"It was back in November I took over this team and we have come a long way since then, moving from bottom of the league to fourth, and now progressing into the final of the cup. I have managed to put the team back on the track and moving in the right direction - there is nothing better than seeing those boys out there working with you to achieve everything that we set out to do some four months ago.
"There we no outstanding players out there on the pitch today, but there was an outstanding team, the conditions were difficult, there was a great sense of nervousness, but as we have done so more often than not we have won this important game for the Club, and have gained back a huge amount of credibility for the team."
Faithfold boss Zuriel Solomon told JC Sport: "We lost 3-2 in a game we dominated. I'm extremely proud of our performance today as we were missing five senior players - including Alex Levack, Daryl Phillips, Dan Howard and the cup-tied Elliott Stern and Mike Pearson.
"We knew Lions would be strong and were able to call upon five or six of their Saturday team but that just spurred us on. Football is about taking your chances and we missed about four or five good chances.
"They scored direct from a corner and then we gave away two sloppy goals which they finished clinically.
"We played some of our best football this season and Lions would admit they had the luck on their side. Good luck to them in the final."
After hearing that LML with play RJC in the final, Landesberg added: "I just saw that Jack Van Gelder, scored for Redbridge to take them through top the final. Nick Landesberg scoring for us. It will be an emotional time to see both boys on the park together at Wingate for the final. Paul Van Gelder and I played for many years together at Wingate, where we had a fantastic time, winning many cups, championships and medals, and most importantly forging an everlasting friendship. We can take the boys into the Wingate clubhouse and see us both up there on the honours board, just to prove we could both play the game properly. It will be great to have our boys our there, ironically at Wingate."