Maccabi GB Futsal ran out deserved 4-1 winners against Carlisle in a thrilling opening encounter of the FA Futsal Cup quarter-final Mini-League stage, but it was far from comfortable.
MGB were fielding their most experienced side of the season, including player-manager Jon Kurrant who passed a late fitness test to start the game.
Carlisle were fairly unknown in the Futsal community, but possess a fantastic set-up, having implemented an academy infrastructure that is only going to help them progress and be even more successful.
The game started at a frantic pace. Carlisle full-pressed, taking MGB by surprise and had them on the back-foot from the offset. It was, however, the home side who had the better chances. Two well-worked set pieces got Kurrant, and then Olcot, free to whistle their shots past the keeper.
Dan Lipman in the Maccabi GB net was called into action on the odd occasion and then Carlisle got their opportunity. A runner was let go and the Carlisle winger pulled the ball back to the pivot. With a gaping goal to aim at he skewed his effort wide - a huge let-off for Maccabi GB.
Seven minutes in and Maccabi GB got their noses in front. Kurrant was brought down for the third time in succession and, from the subsequent free-kick, he rifled the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
MGB doubled their lead a couple of minutes later. They accumulated a fifth foul and Carlisle were confused as to whether it was a 10m penalty or not. Shulton took full advantage and shot before the Carlisle defence could get organised and smashed his effort in off the post.
Clearly deflated, the visitors sat off and eased the pressure they were energetically applying at the start of the game. This allowed MGB to grow in confidence. Kurrant was becoming a menace for the Carlisle defence, who were beginning to lose their rag as tempers flared.
Jordan Davidson, usually the no. 1 for Maccabi GB, was playing outfield and was putting in a superlative performance defensively. Teammate Aviel Schwarz was moving the ball with pace like a man half his age!
Gideon Barnett and Alex Olcot went close before the game changed. Some good interplay from Carlisle resulted in a shot from distance; the ball ricocheted off of Olcot to smash the opposition pivot in the chest before it looped over Lipman to make the score 2-1. Carlisle were back in it and started to believe again, re-applying the pressure they showed in the opening minutes and finishing the half the better side.
The second half was a lot more relaxed affair. Clearly the first half’s frenetic pace had taken its toll on both sides and, like the first half, Maccabi GB had the majority of possession. Whilst slightly the weaker side, Carlisle were always showing to be a threat.
Maccabi GB could have pulled further ahead when Kurrant, followed by Barnett, missed one-on-one opportunities but the Carlisle keeper was in superb form and stopped each one effectively. Olcot went close a little later and then Bernstein had a back-post opportunity but just put the ball wide.
You could feel the Maccabi GB bench getting nervous as the scoreline was still tight. But then it changed. Olcot was freed and slipped his shot to the left-hand side of the goalkeeper to put his team 3-1 to the good.
Nearing the end of the game, and in a lot more control, Maccabi GB power-played with Kurrant putting on the keeper's jersey. Olcot became the distributor and Barnett, Bernstein and Shulton passed the ball with pace. This led to Bernstein being free to smash the ball across goal and Barnett to tap in and make it 4-1.
Man-of-the-match for Maccabi GB was Jordan Davidson, for his tireless defensive work, playing out of position.
Maccabi GB got over the finishing line, but a lot will need to be improved, most notably finishing the chances they create. Next up is Kaunas, who won their opening game 14-0 versus Oxford, so a tough game is expected at Sport House on April 13.
Starting V: 23. Daniel Lipman, 3. Alex Olcot, 8. Scott Shulton, 9. Gideon Barnett, 12. Jon Kurrant
Subs: 5. Jordan Davidson, 6. Alex Norman, 7. Benji Weinberger, 11. Jamie Bernstein, 14. Aviel Schwarz
Goal-scorers: Kurrant, Shulton, Olcot, Barnett