Big Ben gets Athletico off the mark

JC BARRY GOLDSTEIN TROPHY GROUP B
Athletico Finchley 2 Los Blancos 2

Athletico and Blancos got off the mark in the Barry Goldstein Trophy after a thrilling contest in which Blancos led twice but could not hold inspired opponents.

Thundering rain and two talented sides was always going to provide an exciting match up. But no-one would have predicted the make up of this fixture.

The first half saw a confident Los Blancos side coming up against an Athletico side who looked vulnerable from the off. Within the first 10 minutes Athletico found themselves a goal down as the ball was launched over the defence to Dov Greenberg who coolly lobbed the ball over Doug Carson and into the back of the net.

Blancos continued to dominate possession and apply all the pressure, with Athletico finding themselves lucky not to be trailing by more. However, out of nowhere, Keller managed to find Sam Collins down the right wing. Collins sprinted towards the by-line before putting in a sublime cross to the feet of the unmarked Mikey Salem in the box. Salem took one touch before sliding the ball past the Los Blancos keeper. 1-1.

Athletico began to find their feet but were knocked down again after the Blancos winger managed to wriggle past two players before putting a cross into the box, which was met with a great volley by Greenberg for his second goal of the game. Los Blancos went into half time 2-1 up.

Another inspirational half-time team talk from manager Gideon Rabstein gave Athletico the belief that they could get something from this game, and they sure showed it.

The Finchley boys dominated the second half. The Athletico attackers finally woke up and Aron Keller started pulling all the strings in midfield. Athletico fans were celebrating as Keller managed to put Jack Wagner in on goal, but Wagner failed to capitalise on this one-on-one situation and his shot went wide.

Athletico needed someone to step up to the plate and get a well-deserved equaliser. There was only one man for the job: none other than fan favourite, Ben Mandell. The ball looked sure to go out for a Los Blancos throw-in, but Mandell had other ideas. The winger sprinted from the half way line, all the way to the corner flag and some how managed the keep the ball in play. Mandell then took the ball, skipped past the Los Blancos full back before unleashing a bending and dipping shot from outside the box. The ball seemed to move in slow motion as it flew perfectly into the top right hand corner of the goal. Once again, cue Athletico ecstasy.

Athletico took all the momentum from the goal and continued to apply non-stop pressure to a tiring Los Blancos side. After some great hold up play by Sam Collins on the half way line, the striker managed to turn to deliver a perfect through ball to Mandell. Mandell attempted to slot the ball in the corner but saw his shot countered by a fantastic save from the keeper. Daniel Mattey sprinted the entire pitch to get on the end of the save for the rebound, but saw his shot miss the post by a matter of inches.

With two minutes to spare, Los Blancos could have nicked the game if not for keeper Doug Carson pulling off two great saves to deny the whites. Soon after, with 30 seconds left on the clock, Mandell found Mattey on the left hand side. Mattey took the ball past the full back, into the box, before sliding the ball across to Collins to surely finish it off. However, the keeper somehow managed to tip Collins’ shot over the bar and the referee blew the full-time whistle.

Athletico chairman Zach Margolin told JC Sport: "Today, in the second half, we played the best I have ever seen us play. We somehow managed to turn the game around, coming from behind twice against a Los Blancos side who are probably the toughest team we have faced this season. We should have won the game too.

"All the boys should be extremely proud of themselves for playing with so much heart and desire. It was a really great game today."

Last updated: 4:16pm, March 4 2012