Title rivals drop points in Olim League

January 31, 2012
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A strike from Roy Ben Zehou earned England FC a 1-1 draw against Jerusalem in Jaffa.

The arch rivals met on Saturday night, with the champions looking to avenge their defeat in the capital earlier in the season, to close the gap on Ra'anana at the top of the table.

Both sides fielded three members of the triumphant England Olim World Cup squad, but the game provided very few clear-cut chances, with both sides limited to long-range efforts.

Jerusalem shaded a very tight first half, with the breakthrough coming from a set piece half way through the half, when veteran centre back Danny Newman headed in from a corner to score against his former club for his first competitive goal since last summer's Olim World Cup final to give Jerusalem a 1-0 lead. The goal coincidentally came against the same team USA goalkeeper.

If Jerusalem edged the first half, it was England FC who upped the tempo in the second half, having the lion share of the possession. However, the champions still could not find their way past the Jerusalem back four.

England FC got the equaliser their possession deserved about 15 minutes from time, when Ben Zehou converted from a corner.

Both sides had a couple of half chances in the closing minutes to snatch the points, but a draw was probably the fairest outcome, leaving England FC A remaining in second place and Jerusalem a point behind in third.

The day's biggest winners were Ra'anana with both sides in effect dropping two points in the title race.

Ashdod 0 FC Jaffa 2

FC Jaffa came into this weekend’s clash in Ashdod knowing a win was essential to keep their faint hopes of a league challenge alive.

A scrappy opening 30 minutes saw both teams muster little offensively. However, Jaffa managed to break the deadlock shortly after. Nir Ha'Cohen picked up a loose ball in the middle of the pitch, and his delightful through ball saw Rani Madmon one on one with the Ashdod goalkeeper. With the goal at his mercy, Madmon set up Daniel Berkeley with a simple tap into an open net.

The goal sparked Jaffa into life. They pushed on, looking to add to their slender lead. Eyal Hoffman thought he had that crucial second goal with a tremendous bit of skill in the box, but the referee whistled for handball.

Jaffa goalkeeper, Simon Davies, was called into action in the last minute of the half making a smart save after Ashdod had broken through Jaffa’s resolute defence.

Jaffa were the more threatening of the two teams after the restart. A few minutes into the half, Ha'Cohen's mazy run left Tito Elias inches away from increasing the lead.

With Ashdod forced to look for an equaliser, Jaffa started finding more space and their patience finally paid off. Picking up the ball just before the half way line, man-of-the-match Hoffman eluded two defenders with a Messi’esque run, before finishing off the game with a simple lob over the onrushing goalkeeper.

With Stephen Caffrey and Rob Pearl dominating the middle of defence, Jaffa’s lead was safe. Both teams created a few more chances, but there were no more goals.

Jaffa manager Simon Berkley said: "For the first time this season, it felt like we really played well together as a team."

With seven games remaining, Jaffa are only six points behind league leading Ra’anana.

Berkley added: "If we can keep this level of performance going till the end, we can still make a title charge."

    Last updated: 1:33pm, January 31 2012