London Maccabi Lions B and Bafana Bafana opened their pre-season programme with a close and hard fought game at Rowley Lane this Sunday.
With a tough four week programme of fitness behind them, Lions came into this game with much to prove to new manager Gavin Stollar, who was taking charge of his first game with the Rowley Lane club.
The game started at a reasonably slow pace which was to be expected. A midfield battle ensued with Lions probably shading the first 20 minutes. The deadlock was broken when Lions' Josh Morris, fresh from his European Maccabi Football Trophy gold winning exploits in Madrid, capped a fine first half performance with a goal. Cutting in from the right hand side, Morris beat his man and planted a shot in the top right hand corner. A well worked goal which gave Lions the lead after 25 minutes.
The minutes following Lions' first goal of their pre-season campaign were frantic and competitive. As one has come to expect from any team led by Adam Lawrence, Bafana did not let their heads drop and sure enough, ten minutes later, with 25 minutes on the clock, Lions' defender Ryan Fox got caught in possession and the Bafana striker coolly slotted past Lions' keeper, Mike Elvey, 1-1.
With some strong words of encouragement, Lions' skipper Raanan Firmin, rallied his troops and was rewarded five minutes later when Lions regained their one goal advantage. A foul 35 yards out from goal resulted in former Oakwood player, James Steele curling a long free kick into the box. The shot deceived everyone and ended up in the back of the net. Claims that the kick came off a Bafana player by his team mates were dispelled later on by Steele as he claimed his goal, 2-1 Lions at half time.
The second half started with Lions making some changes, the effervescent Danny Reuben, new signing Sam ‘Adebayor' Arghebant, Will Beresford and former Oakwood player, Elliot Espinoza, made way for triallists Henry Ziff, Sam Senchall, the ever green Hadley Silver and Rob Hirshcorn.
The pace of the game in the second half slowed and the midfields on both teams again seemed to dictate the game. It wasn't until the 70 minute that the first real chance of the game came along and it fell to Bafana. A challenge in the Lions box resulted in referee John Smith pointing to the spot. Up stepped Bafana's ever reliable penalty taker, Mr Cool himself, David Ossack, but luckily for his former Great Britain boss, Gavin Stollar, Ossack sent his penalty kick wide of Mike Elvey's right upright.
Ossack's blushes were spared however when a long ball over the top of the Lions defence and the Bafana striker was fastest to react lobbing the ball over the on rushing Elvey to put Bafana on level terms, 2-2.
Since his introduction at half time, Hadley Silver was very much dictating the play down the left. After a season dogged with injury, Silver has demonstrated a real desire to get back into contention at Rowley Lane and he marked his long awaited comeback with a goal that puts a marker down to all those doubters out there who said he was finished. Silver controlled a clearance out from the Bafana backline and on the volley he despatched a rocket that left the Bafana keeper only able to admire what was a wonderful goal. The game's only other event of note was a late challenge by Lions' Sam Senchall which resulted in the Lions' triallist being ordered from the field.
All in all this was a good work out for both teams and for Lions' boss Gavin Stollar, he opened his account with a win. After the game he said:
"Today was about getting out there and playing as a team for the first time. I can see a lot of potential in the squad of players and overall the fitness levels looked good too. I have set the squad a challenging target for this year but am confident we have the resources to achieve the goals set."