MGB finish runners-up in Futsal competition
Maccabi GB Open Futsal manager Johnny Cohen heralded the inaugural MIFT as a huge success.
The event, which was jointly sponsored by the Maccabi GB Open Age and Masters Futsal Teams competing at the EMG this summer, consisted of five teams.
In addition to the Maccabi teams, the field was completed by three Southern Section National Futsal League sides, featuring Baltic, who currently lie second in the league, Enfield and Spartans, last year's beaten finalists.
Spartans eventually ran out winners, narrowly beating Maccabi GB Open Age team 1-0 in a tense and technically excellent final.
The five teams were placed in to one group all playing each other once – in 25-minute straight games with no traditional stopping clock.
Enfield kicked off the tournament losing 3-1 to Baltic. This was followed by an official welcome to the event by Johnny Cohen and an impeccably observed minute's silence to commemorate Yom Hashoah.
The Open team then faced Spartans and were on the wrong end of a 2-0 result and a futsal lesson. The Masters kicked of their tournament and were unlucky to lose 3-2 to Enfield – conceding two late goals when it looked like the points were in the bag.
The Open team then found their form playing their best futsal since forming back in November and convincingly defeating Baltic 2-0. Russell Goldstein opened the scoring on his return from long-term injury and debutant Jonathan Kurrant scored a wonder strike from a direct free kick to seal the points.
The Masters team meanwhile were finding life increasingly difficult in what was always going to be a huge test for them. However they gave a really good account of themselves taking the lead against the Open team through a long-range effort from assistant-manager Paul Shamplina. However a soft goal levelled matters for the Open team who soon took control running out eventual 5-1 winners.
The Open team made life hard for themselves in a scrappy match against a depleted Enfield side. The 4-2 victory to Maccabi booked their place in the competition final.
In their last two games the Masters were shown no mercy by their top-level opponents and were beaten 5-0 and 6-0 by Baltic and Spartans respectively. Their participation will no doubt only have been of massive benefit for the tests they have ahead of them in Vienna.
The third and fourth place play-off turned in to a one-sided massacre. Baltic, with their 11-man squad, crushing an exhausted Enfield 8-0.
The final was an altogether different affair. Having been beaten by Spartans 2-0 in their opening group game MGB had a point to prove. The words of assistant-player-manager Daniel Sugarman – when he told his teammates that they would have another chance to play Spartans again in the final – were echoing in their ears as they prepared for the game.
The match, which was split into two 15-minute periods, began in predictably edgy style with both teams holding firm in defence and probing and pushing in rare bursts. Something special was needed to win this game. That something special came from the Spartan number 3 who's expertly angled low drive gave Danny Berliner – who had been superb all day – no chance for what eventually proved to be the winner.
Jonathan Green came off the bench with seven minutes played and his movement and power created an immediate opportunity for himself and in truth should have done better from close range to draw the scores level. Due to the disciplined fashion in which they defended neither team were able to fashion many more chances for the remainder of the match and despite a last rally from the Open team, Spartans held out to eventually win the final 1-0.
MGB Open Team manager Johnny Cohen commented: "I was delighted with the field of play and the respect the teams showed by not only observing the minute silence with such dignity at the beginning of the day but also by the highly competitive attitude they addressed the tournament with.
"The tournament was designed to give both ourselves and the Masters vital match experience before Vienna and to see how far we have come. The fact that we were genuinely disappointed to have lost the final speaks volumes for our progression.
"We now have two months in which we very much hope to be in the best possible shape to represent our country at this highly prestigious event."
Player coach for the Maccabi Masters Paul Shamplina said: "The competition was of a very high standard with top national club futsal sides taking part. Obviously as the only masters team entering we knew it would be tough, against quicker teams.
"I learnt a lot about my players playing in competition and dealing under pressure, which we were throughout this tournament."