Lions Under 9s win cup
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It was a case of third time lucky for London Maccabi Lions Under 9s as they beat Panathainakos to win the Watford Friendly League Cup.
Beaten by Panathainakos twice in the league this season, the Lions were grateful to the efforts of groundstaff at Everett Rovers who worked wonders to enable the game to go ahead after torrential rain.
Both teams were marched to the pitch in true final style and the game started in a fast and ferocious pace with Lions keeper Hadley Shapps being forced into an early good save by the Panathainakos striker.
Undaunted by the big occasion, the Lions played some excellent football with Joe Leslie and Olly Russell combining well to set up Dylan Bull but he could only find the side netting.
Lions’ best chance of a goalless first half fell to Joey Gold but his 20-yard free kick was well saved by the keeper.
The second half started with Panathanaikos gaining the upper hand as they pressed forward looking for the opening but some superb defending by captain Gold and Levi Freud saved the day for the Lions.
With defences tight, extra time looked on the cards but the Lions shifted Joe Leslie to his more familiar right midfield position and Louis Perl, on for the superb Eddie Lisberg, started to cause trouble up front.
Leslie helped the Lions forge ahead with a whipped corner that was met by skipper Gold ran in to meet the ball and beat the Panathainakos keeper to put the Lions ahead.
There was not long left now and the Lions just needed to hold on to the lead but they committed the cardinal sin of conceding immediately. A long ball into the box caused was not cleared and the ball was bundled over the line by the striker with cries of foul play overlooked by the referee.
The game headed for extra time and it was now Panathainakos in the ascendancy as they pressed for the winner forcing an outstanding save out of Shapps.
The Lions now sensed their name was on the cup and as time etched away towards the dreaded penalties, Leslie found space down the right and crossed in to find Bull unmarked at the back post to win it. The scenes of jubilation were something to behold and the Lions held on for a memorable victory.
Lions manager Lee Collins said: “This has been an amazing first season for this team and to come away with a trophy shows how good this team can be in the next few years. They love playing together and they are the smallest squad in the league and I am a really proud manager today. It’s great for the boys and most of all the club as a whole.”