JC MSFL PREMIER DIVISION
London Maccabi Lions A 6 North West Neasden A 5
A hat-trick from Neasden old boy Alex Bowman inspired Lions to victory in an 11-goal thriller.
In the first of a mouth-watering triple-header throughout the day for football enthusiasts, Lions welcomed current league leaders North West Neasden to Rowley Lane.
Lions went into the game off the back of some good recent league form that had seen them go unbeaten in their last five games but they were under no illusions that Neasden would represent a severe challenge to that extended run.
In blustery conditions, it was the home side that settled quickest, seemingly first to all first and second balls, whilst looking sharp in possession and assured at the back. With just five minutes on the clock, Lions got off to the perfect start as top-scorer Ollie Craig raced clear of the Neasden back line after a nice long ball from Jake Lew. As he shrugged off two challenges, he then made no mistake with the finish, stabbing home from close range to give Lions tangible reward for their superior start.
One soon became two, as Bowman was not to be outdone by his strike partner as he tapped home after good work down the right from Craig.
It seemed as though Lions could not improve on what was a dream start but that's exactly what they did on 12 minutes when from a corner from Aviel Schwarz curled straight into the net, past Shields in the Neasden goal. Bowman seemed adamant that he played a role in diverting it into the goal; Schwarz too seemed convinced it should have been his name to go on the scoresheet.
The only certainty of Lions’ third goal was that the result of the dubious goals committee decision would be eagerly anticipated in the Bowman and Schwarz households later on in the week. Despite racing off to such a fast start, Lions were persistent in their assault upon the Neasden goal. The defence too, looked exceptionally assured, with Lew and Ollie Leslie breaking up play and distributing from the back with apparent ease.
It therefore came as a surprise when the Lions goal was eventually breached midway through the first half. It did come under contentious circumstances though, as it appeared Leslie's sliding challenge was clean and fair. Up stepped Lee Cash to clinically dispatch the resultant penalty beyond the helpless Castle to hand Neasden a lifeline.
This only seemed to fire the home side up more as they continued to press forward, dominating large spells of possession.
They soon saw their three-goal advantage restored as Bowman ensured there was no case of mistaken identity this time, making no mistake with a sublime finish of the highest quality.
Ollie Leslie, not for the first time got in front of his marker to intercept, before carrying forward and spotting the run of Bowman. An excellent through ball ensued, allowing Bowman to smash home with the outside of his left foot to give Lions a 4-1 lead on 40 minutes.
There was still time before half time for Lions to add further to their lead. Some good work in the Lions midfield, released Schwarz down the right and he showed great composure, before picking out the advancing run of Bowman, to allow him another tap in and to complete a marvellous first half hat-trick.
Lions knew the game was not yet finished and went out looking to be solid for the first 10 minutes of the second period. However, they did exactly the opposite as they allowed Jake Gottlieb a free header from a corner inside the opening three minutes.
This gave the visitors a much-needed boost and they began to show their ability on the ball, much in the same way as Lions did in the first half.
Just 10 minutes later and Neasden were given further hope as a long through ball was not dealt with at the back by Lions allowing Elliot Stern to race clear and lift over the oncoming Castle to reduce the arrears.
Lions seemed to be finding the wind a serious problem in the second half, as Neasden continued to press forward with purpose. Lions however, continued to produce a number of good chances of their own, along with a decent penalty shout as captain Yoav Lebens was pushed when challenging for an aerial ball.
The home crowd grew increasingly nervy when Cash converted his second of the morning to bring Neasden within a goal of Lions, with still 15 minutes left on the clock.
Lions subsequently freshened things up with a number of substitutions including that of 16-year-old Stanley Offord, who within a minute of being introduced had a massive role to play in the overall outcome of the game.
Intercepting a pass deep in the Lions half, the left back drove forward with pace, determination and strength that belied his young age. A lung bursting run followed, spanning three quarters of the pitch as he outpaced and outmuscled two Neasden defenders before finding the composure to expertly strike home to give Lions a much needed two-goal cushion.
Neasden did manage to get another goal back via substitute Ben Ellis, but it wasn’t enough, as Lions eventually ran out deserved winners, whilst in the process aging a number of the crowd a fair few years.
The first half display by Lions was simply breathtaking and while there is no doubt plenty to learn and take out of the second half struggle it will be a most welcome three points for the Rowley Lane outfit.
Next week sees a rematch between the two teams, this time in Peter Morrison Trophy. With the goal feast served up by both teams this week, big crowds are expected back for next week’s contest.