As good as it gets, say rampant Lions

By Danny Caro, April 18, 2008

London Maccabi Lions A’s management team of Eilon Kennet and Ben Winston hailed “the perfect performance” as they completed a hat-trick of JC Cyril Anekstein Cup wins after the 6-0 demolition of Chigwell Athletic B at Wingate & Finchley. Three goals from Michael Pearson saw the Lions become the seventh Maccabi League team to win the League Cup for the third consecutive season after they played first division Chigwell off the park on Sunday night. In one of the most one-sided finals for many years, hairdresser Pearson, 25, produced three razor sharp finishes as he cut up the East Londoners.

Joint-manager Kennet commented: “Chigwell got us on a particularly good day. This was the first time this season that we’ve had our strongest squad available, and it showed.

“We asked the boys to be particularly disciplined and I believe the performance was about as good as you will get at this level.”

Chigwell had gone into their first Wingate final on a high after surprising last season’s Premier Division champions Hendon United A in the semi-finals. But they looked a pale shadow of that team as they were outclassed and outthought by a rampant Lions team. The Lions roared into the lead on 15 minutes as the impressive Ricky Kennet surged into the box and shot goalwards.

Chigwell keeper Ben Rosenthal did well to parry the effort but Mancunian Louis Basger was on hand to tap home from close range. The one-way traffic continued as Ricky Kennet fed Pearson whose powerful drive forced a brilliant finger-tip save from Rosenthal. It was wave after wave of attack from the boys in claret but Chigwell’s supporters stayed in good voice.

As half time approached, Chigwell were hanging on but the second goal had to come, and it did. In a move straight off the Rowley Lane training ground, Aviel Schwarz’s curling free-kick was flicked goalwards by Pearson with the ball looping over the stranded Rosenthal and into the net after 39 minutes. The pattern of the second half saw more Lions domination as Chigwell did not change a thing in terms of team shape or tactics much to the surprise of the crowd.

Kennet and Pearson linked up again to force another smart save from Ben Rosenthal and it looked a case of damage limitation being Chigwell’s best bet to come away from north London with pride intact. If this was a boxing match it’d been halted long before the final whistle. Two became three just after the hour mark when a quick free-kick found Ben Joseph whose teasing low cross was touched home at the far post by Basger.

Lions were running riot with Chigwell unable to live with Pearson’s penetrative runs and movement. And while Chigwell looked overawed by the occasion and couldn’t wait for the final whistle, Lions were enjoying it. Substitutions from both teams did not affect Lions’ free-flowing football and they added a fourth goal when Joseph’s cut-back was smashed home by Pearson.

The closing stages produced two more goals for the holders but first Hayden Smith tried his luck from fully 50 yards with Lions keeper Elvey, who played with a broken finger, doing well to pluck the ball out of the glare of the floodlights to produce an acrobatic save. Spanish eyes were smiling as Joseph was felled in the box. Despite central defender Basger and Pearson being on hat-tricks, sentiment got the better of the Lions who gave the ball to sub Brian Estiz. Just hours before returning to his home land, he drilled the penalty into the bottom corner to become the first Spaniard to score in the final.

Pearson ensured that there would be at least one hat-trick hero as he raced through in the dying seconds to lift the ball over Rosenthal to complete a 6-0 routing. Joint-manager Kennet described the Chigwell fans as “fantastic” and added: “Full credit to them for getting to the final. Our biggest challenge now is to become the first team to do four-in-a-row next season.”

Co-boss Ben Winston said: “Considering this was our fourth final, it was the first time that we worked out how to play on the width of Wingate. We performed to a level we know we can play. When you have a centre back who scores two goals it just goes to show that we’re a footballing team.

“I felt that we deserve to win something this season. It’s been a difficult campaign but we have not under-performed. We have won two Peter Morrison Trophies and three JC Cyril Anekstein Cups in the past four years which isn’t bad.”

Chigwell manager Russell Green gave a brutality honest assessment of the game. “We were completely outclassed,” he said. “I knew Lions were good but they played it around nicely and we just watched them. We made it easy for them. But I’m very proud of the boys for getting to the final .”

Last updated: 2:17pm, June 23 2008