Maccabi GB finished comfortable victors against a technical Sport London Benfica in their first game of the London Futsal League Division 2 South season.
The opening exchanges were tense, with the ball given away or kicked out of play in order to get organised. It was a 'blow-for-blow' start - both teams trying to work out each others' weaknesses and the game was shaping up to be a battle.
Both sides pressed the ball well, but three minutes into the 40 minute stop-clock game, Maccabi GB started to dominate possession. Scott Shulton and Alex Olcot were making the Benfica outfit move across the court and Nick Landesberg was holding the ball up well and connecting play as the pivot for MGB.
The first chance of the game was for Benfica playing on the counter. The ball was scooped from deep, with MGB having lost concentration and had no-one tracking their runners, and the ball was headed wide of Davidson's upright.
Maccabi GB continued to boss possession and rack-up their corner count. A well rehearsed set-piece found Olcot free, but he could not get enough on it and the resultant shot went wide. Sollosi was introduced to the game and the momentum had not changed. MGB were in control of the ball and chances were being made. After a jinking run Sollosi was fouled 12m from goal. Kurrant flashed the free kick inches wide of the Benfica goal with Landesberg unfortunate not to get on the end of it at the back post.
Moments later, Olcot and player-manager Jon Kurrant combined with a one-two, the latter finding himself centrally with the return pass and stroked the ball in off the post to make it 1-0 to Maccabi GB.
If there were ever any doubts about dominance of the game, these were put to rest. Gordon-Boyd and Benzaken were passing and moving the ball with pace allowing the latter to get shots off. There were momentary scares for the home side - losing concentration at pivotal times and allowing Benfica to slice through their diamond formation. The focus of Davidson did not falter as he parried two dangerous opportunities.
Nine minutes in and Gordon-Boyd and Benzaken, two players that were part of the Maccabi GB silver medal-winning U16 Futsal side that competed in the recent 19th Maccabiah Games, combined down the right flank, Benzaken toe-poked the ball from an extremely tight position that slipped under the onrushing keeper, putting MGB in dreamland and a 2-0 cushion.
Kurrant then had a couple of opportunities, the best when he jinked in from the left flank and thundered a shot that crashed off the bar. Pressure was building and it was only going one way.
A few changes were made to rest legs and introduce others. Maccabi GB started to lose their shape slightly. Hesitation crept in over when to press or when to sit caused Benfica to grow in confidence, putting MGB under increasing pressure. This told minutes later when poor organisation from a Benfica set piece allowed the ball to be driven to the back post fired past the helpless Davidson to make it 2-1.
The game then began to become disjointed. The crisp passing MGB had started with was slowing down, playing into the Benfica hands. Half time could not come sooner, and it finished 2-1 at the break.
After the interval, Benfica came out the brightest having two shots from distance parried away to safety by the impressive Davidson. Something had to change in order for Maccabi GB to get back in the ascendency and it did. Sheldon and Donne started to find their feet, moving the ball off of Marrache and Landesberg, and were beginning to find success down their flanks. Donne was more attacking with his movement and started to find pockets. After great work from Shulton to step on to a misplaced Benfica pass, he countered with speed and found Donne who placed the ball into the bottom corner to make it 3-1 to the boys in red.
This calmed MGB down and the ball was knocked around again at a good pace. Sollosi was circulating the ball, making good decisions and becoming an increasingly influencial outlet when MGB found themselves under pressure. This, coupled with Gordon-Boyd being relentless with his work ethic and clever decisions on the ball, was causing havoc. Donne was becoming an ever-present threat with his will to get to the back post created another opening and a brace for the young U18 Maccabbian. It was 4-1 to Maccabi and looking comfortable.
Over confidence was the only detrimental factor that could affect the outcome now. Unfortunately this started to set in. Maccabi GB were the culprits of their own downfall, switching off from another set piece that was flashed across the goal mouth, for a tap-in near post and the score was now 4-2. This got Benfica's tails up, and an onslaught of pressure followed for the next couple of minutes. Norman, slotting in as cierre, and Sollosi were making the difference defensively and keeping the scores as they were. Timely interventions relieved pressure at this critical time in the game and shortly after MGB got their just rewards.
Shulton intercepted a forced pass by Benfica, and ran through to be one-on-one with the keeper. He majestically slotted the ball past his opponent and sent his bench into raptures. 5-2 was the score and it clearly knocked the wind out of the sails of Benfica's work ethic.
Goal six came shortly after. Another counter attack by Sollosi down the left flank finished with him flicking the ball across the goal line before Marrache finished well at the back post.
Gordon-Boyd made it 7-2 and an emphatic victory for the young Maccabi GB side.
Shulton's day wasn't finished here. After his side won a penalty, 'Captain Marvel' ran up to take the spot-kick with swagger, deceiving the goalkeeper with his eyes. The post also seemed to go the wrong way and Shulton missed the target. A bad end to an otherwise strong display for the skipper.
Man of the Match for Maccabi GB was Gordon-Boyd for his work ethic, great decision-making and being a constant thorn in the side for Benfica.
A great victory and the team beaming with confidence, next up for Maccabi GB is LB Herts on October 27 at Sport House, Barking 2pm. LB Herts lost out to title favourites Kickers, who were relegated from Division 1 last year, 7-2.
Maccabi:Davidson, Olcot, Shulton, Landesberg, Kurrant. Substitutes: Donne, Benzaken, Gordon-Boyd, Sheldon, Sollosi, Norman, Marrache
Maccabi GB Goalscorers: Kurrant 7, Benzaken 9, Donne 24, Donne 28, Shulton 30, Marrache 32, Gordon-Boyd 36