WATFORD FRIENDLY LEAGUE UNDER 18 DIVISION
LONDON MACCABI LIONS 6 PANATHINAIKOS 3
The Holy Grail of winning the top division of the u18 Watford Friendly League was finally achieved by this year’s talented u18 London Lions side in dramatic fashion on the final day of the season
As teams entered the final day the league could have been won by any one of four teams in the climax of an incredibly competitive season
Needing a win from their final match against Panathinaikos to guarantee at least a share of the title, the largest crowd of the season stood in anticipation on the touchline at Rowley Lane as the teams took to the pitch
Lions started cautiously with good possession but with few chances created, the relief around the ground was palpable as Michael Kenley netted to give Lions the lead after 15 minutes.
A trademark curler from outside the area soon followed from Adam Arnold and Lions went comfortably 3-0 up on the half hour mark with a sizzling shot from Stanley Offord that the Panathinaikos keeper was unable to keep out.
Lions then switched off and for a 10 minute spell Panathinaikos took control, with Sam Greenberg having to work hard in goal to allow Lions to maintain the lead.
However, an intricate move from the left flank and a decisive finish from the Panathinaikos striker, pulled the score back to 3-1 before Arnold found the net again with a low driving shot from the edge of the area to take the score to 4-1 at half time.
The game seemed all but over 10 minutes into the second half when Arnold completed his hat-trick to push Lions into a 5-1 lead, only for keeper Greenberg to have to leave the field with a hand injury following a reflex save.
Ben Halmer took over in goal and with Panathinaikos throwing caution to the wind, two consecutive goals brought the score back to 5-3.
With 20 minutes still left to play, Lions supporters were feeling decidedly less comfortable until man-of-the-match Arnold spotted the Panathinaikos goalkeeper off his line to chip him from 25 yards to seal a 6-3 victory.
As the final whistle sounded, Lions players and supporters celebrated as captain Levi Levenfiche led his players off the pitch in the knowledge that history had been made at the club to the sound of popping champagne corks and the traditional euphoric chanting of ‘Championes’.
A mile or so down the road Borehamwood Youth were simultaneously battling with Alexandra Park East and by narrowly winning that match with the odd goal in five they were able to match Lions’ points tally for the season ensuring that the league title would be shared between the two clubs.
This match marked a fitting and emotional end to an incredible journey at London Lions for this squad with a number of players having made over 200 appearances in a Lions shirt since starting out as under-8's, and from which six players will be representing the Maccabi GB team at u18 level in Israel this summer.
Lions: (from back row, left to right) Ben Halmer, Zak Skry, Sam Greenberg, Michael Kenley, Sami Zerovabeli, Casey Sharpe, Stanley Offord, Josh Curtis, Rob Cohen
(Front row) – Daniel Nikolopulos, Adam Arnold, Boaz Goldwater, Levi Levenfiche(c), David Seitler