A hat-trick from goal machine Scott Shulton helped Maccabi GB Futsal maintain their title charge with a nail-biting 7-6 win over Futsal Enfield .
Another week, another nail-biting contest for Maccabi Great Britain who have been entertaining audiences in the last two games with some attacking end to end performances, Sunday was no exception.
Futsal Enfield have had a mixed season so far, having lost their opening game to under-achieving Braintree Futsal before a solid performance and result against Sport London Benfica last week. Against Maccabi however, Enfield boasted their strongest side of the season, possessing the likes of Justin Dickinson, an England Development player and Bruno Ferrage, formerly of Spartans (a strong Division 1 outfit in previous seasons). There were a couple of changes for Maccabi as Nick Landesberg made his second competitive start of the season and Charlie Rubin, one of the stars of the Maccabiah for the open side made his debut in the National League.
A packed crowd was there to watch arguably the best Division Two competitive fixture to date, and no-one was left disappointed at what was to follow. MGB started as they have done in their previous three games, the better side, controlling possession of the ball as Enfield were content on sitting and figuring out the MGB patterns of play.
Dean Benzaken was looking particular impressive, both defensively and offensively, and Shulton, the club's leading goal-scorer for 2013, was in an attacking frenzy once again.
The first chances of the match for MGB were two well rehearsed set-pieces, Alex Olcot hitting the first on the floor following some good blocking by Landesberg and Shulton, but the blocked before the second set-piece, a scoop by Kurrant found Shulton free for a volley but skewing his effort wide.
Five minutes in and the pressure told, Shulton stole the ball in his own half before weaving in and out and wrong footing the keeper from range to give MGB a crucial 1-0 lead.
Shots were now being fired in from either team with Enfield going close from two corners, but great positioning and decision-making by Jordan Davidson kept MGBF ahead.
Soon after, Kurrant stole the ball and countered with pace and was brought down outside the box. The debutant Rubin struck the resulting free-kick with venom that hit the post before Gershon reacted the quickest and squared the ball for Olcot to tap in and send MGB 2-0 up and in the ascendency.
20 seconds later, Enfield found themselves back in the match; A 1-2 meant a runner was not tracked and the ball was catapulted into the top left corner, game on but switching off gave the opportunity to Enfield, unfortunate but a goal lead was still present.
The tide was turning and Enfield were popping the ball around more effectively and with more confidence and were soon level: a mis-communication meant there ended up being a 2 on 1 against Kurrant with the runner not being used and the ball squeezed over Davidson at his near post making the score 2-2.
MGBF were being made to shoot from distance with no more clear-cut chances being made before Enfield moved the ball slickly again. The ball was deep in MGB territory on the wide flank before a ball was slipped in between Maccabi's diamond and a tap-in on the back post sent Enfield into raptures and the score at 2-3.
Just like what happened when Enfield got their first, they smelt blood and went again, a counter-attack after Landesberg was outmuscled in the pivot position resulted in a counter, 2 on 1 before Ferrage smashed the ball into the bottom left hard corner: Enfield were rampant and MGB were in a lot of a trouble, 2-4.
Maccabi started to get a foothold back into the game and started to impose their passing game again, with Landesberg holding the ball up competently once again and Shulton more energetic. The latter stole the ball once again after great MGB pressure and drove before striking the ball at goal, the shot was blocked and spun in the air before Landesberg followed the ball home, 3-4.
At this point Maccabi were once again back in the game and had racked up five fouls for them meaning the next foul would be a 10m penalty for Maccabi. This soon made the difference as a minute later, a handball was committed (an indirect free-kick should have been awarded) but the 10m penalty was given. Kurrant stepped up and smashed the ball, the keeper parried and Shulton was there to follow up and roll the ball into the net, 4-4 at half-time and this game was enthralling - if you blinked you may have missed something crucial.
In the second half Benzaken, Gershon and Olcot were playing with maturity defensively and meant there were stronger foundations to set up attacks. Olcot and Benzaken had a good passage of playing, with Benzaken's movement opening up passing lines for Rubin to receive the ball higher; Rubin let rip with his feared left peg and rattled the bar, MGB were in control.
Shulton went close moments later with Rubin teeing up the former who caressed the ball into the corner, but the keeper did well to push the ball away. The same pair were in action again when Shulton broke in a 2v1 counter with Rubin for the latter to clip the legs of the keeper and the ball deflected wide; one-way traffic.
Inevitably the next goal was completely against the run of play, MGB's diamond was cut open with a ball slotted through it and in the deep left hand corner, Enfield struck, finessing the ball into the top corner, 4-5.
One minute later and MGB were level, Shulton was fouled, Kurrant stepped up and 'toed' the resulting free kick into the bottoms left hand corner, MGB were level again.
MGB were now relentless and pushing for the victory, greta play by Shulton and Benzaken finished with the latter playing a penetrative ball back post for the onrushing Gershon, who just got a tow to the ball but was outstretched, great play and you could feel more goals were on their way. Good play again by Kurrant and Landesberg, meant Norman entered an attacking position and smashed the ball over the ball, the goal was coming ...
Olcot, who had been a rock all game, was coming in from the right flank time and time again, but mis-timing his strikes and diverting the ball wide of the Enfield upright. Shulton was fouled and a red card was given, Enfield were down to four men meaning Enfield were down to four men for two minutes of play or until MGB scored, and Maccabi were in control: the ball shifted quickly around the court before Shulton found himself in space down near the corner flag, part greed, part confidence Shulton smashed the ball into the stanchion sending the MGB audience into cheers, 6-5, Enfield could bring another player on once again.
A second sending off for Enfield happened two minutes later when a scuffle between Shulton and the opponent resulted in a hand in the face on the MGB star. In the ascendency MGB ran the clock down before Shulton set-up Kurrant to slot the ball between the keeper's legs and give MGB an all important two goal cushion, 7-5.
With 30 seconds to go Enfield pulled one back, but it wasn't enough to give MGB the victory, three points clear at the top and having played the big guns and got six points from six, confidence is brewing in the camp.
Man of the Match was Olcot for the second game in a row for his competence on the ball, his excellent positioning defensively, but, player-manager Kurrant said: "We think he needs to work on his finishing!"
Starting V: Jordan Davidson, Dean Benzaken, Alex Norman, Scott Shulton (capt), Nick Landesberg. Subs:
Alex Olcot, Taylor Gershon, Jonah Gordon-Boyd, Sam Sollosi, Charlie Rubin, Jon Kurrant
Scorers: Shulton (3), Kurrant (2), Olcot, Landesberg