First half strikes from Mike Pearson and Louis Basger helped London Maccabi Lions run out deserved winners as they wrestled the JC Cyril Anekstein Cup from Hendon United A at Wingate & Finchley.
Both sides were missing key players going into the game. For Lions, midfielder Ricky Kennet, matchwinner of the semi-final against Neasden A, failed to make the squad with a back injury forcing him out, while Hendon were missing key duo Alex Rosenthal and Josh Bentley, while Greg Corin was named on the bench, although on 70 per cent fit.
The match featured a Lions team that have won the cup four times since 2000, against the holders.
Hendon started the brighter, with Avidan Last heading over a corner from Motti Korman.
Lions should have forged ahead on five minutes when one-on-one with keeper Danny Berliner, Pearson’s drive was blocked. Lee Bibring followed up bravely but his effort was deflected for a corner.
There followed a lengthy stoppage as assistant-referee Harry Raffe was forced off with a tweaked hamstring. He was replaced by 4th official and reserve referee Andy Myerson, with Gary Silver taking over as 4th official. Raffe later returned, taking over from Silver late on.
The break did not help Hendon for whom striker Dovid Korman went into referee Colin Stupack’s noteback for a crude lunge on Motti Colman.
Lions came close on 20 minutes when a corner from Aviel Schwarz was headed against the post by Pearson.
But the former JC MSFL Player of the Year had better luck 10 minutes later when his scuffed effort bobbled over the line.
With confidence high, they stepped up a gear and started to dominate. Skipper Max Fieldgrass was denied by a heroic goalline clearance from Alex Gilbert.
However, it did not take the Lions long to double their advantage as good work down the right by Fieldgrass saw his cross for Basger who finished in expert fashion.
Lions were good value for their 2-0 lead at the break as Hendon headed for the changing room clearly stunned.
Basger missed a great chance to seal it 10 minutes into the second half, heading over from a corner.
Hendon manager David Garbacz, in charge for his first major final, made two changes and the Reds built up a head of steam with Saul Conway hooking the ball wide of the post followed by Avidan Last who screwed a shot the wrong side of the post.
The Lions made three substitutions as the match drew to a close and Hendon set up a nervy final few minutes when they were awarded a penalty for handball. Paul Bentley sent Mike Elvey the wrong way from the spot to make it 2-1.
Full value for the victory, the Lions saw out the closing minutes with few scares, the closest was a half chance with Elvey out of his goal, the ball fell to Yoni Ben Ari but he did not connect properly and the danger was cleared.
Celebrating his sixth victory in four years, and fourth Anekstein success, Lions boss Eilon Kennet said: “We knew that Hendon are a very good and organised team that never gives up, but they are also a bit more physical now than they used to be, so we also had to deal with that.
“Today we saw a real team performance. We have a great team with no individuals. We continue to take it one game at a time as there is still so much of the season left for us.”
Hendon boss David Garbacz said: “We played well, but the best team won. We went to sleep for the first 20 minutes of the first half and it cost us dearly. Obviously we are disappointed. But we can take great heart from our second half display.
“Ben Joseph and Mike Pearson were the difference between the teams. They were tremendous all afternoon. I don’t think we had any players who posed as much danger.
“It was a tight game on a hot day and the goals took it out of us. We needed to pull one back earlier. Had Alex Rosenthal, Greg Corin and Josh Bentley played, the scoreline might have been different.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Garbacz added: “The league will be tricky as we’re relying on other results to go our way but the Peter Morrison offers us the opportunity to return to Wingate. That’s our best chance now.”
Lions: Mike Elvey 7, Motti Colman 8, Pete Lazard 8, Louis Basger 8, Jacob Lew 8, Max Fieldgrass (capt) 8, Aviel Schwarz 7, Yoav Lebens 8, Ben Joseph 8 (sub: Sam Arghebant 76, 6), Lee Bibring 8 (sub: Joel Ross 78, 6), Mike Pearson 8 (David Dinkin 85, 6). Sub not used: Ben Graham, Josh Morris
Hendon: Danny Berliner 7, Michael Slavinsky 6, Paul Bentley 7, Tali Nevies 7, Alex Gilbert 7, Avidan Last 7, Motti Korman 6 (sub: Yishai Last 58, 6), Josh Lipman 6, Ari Last 6, Saul Conway 6 (sub: Yoni Ben Ari 76, 6), Dovid Korman 6. Sub not used: Greg Corin
JC STAT ATTACK
On target: 7
Off target: 3
On target: 3
Off target: 5
Yellow: 1 (Dovid Korman – late tackle)