GB march into semi-finals
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Maccabiah Games – Day 7
Open football quarter-final: Team GB 2 USA 0
Goals from Guy Morris and Paul Hakim took Team GB into the semi-finals where they will play hosts Israel in Haifa on Monday afternoon.
The GB boys scored in both halves with the second goal ending a determined effort from a resolute American team in Nawe Sha’anan.
Against an American team who had won two out of three group games, GB started in confident mood, on the back of the 2-0 win over Brazil.
GB fashioned the first opening when captain Sam Sloma’s free-kick was met by Michael Sacks but under a strong challenge, the ball fell into the clutches of the USA keeper.
Jonathan Kestenbaum’s men did not have to wait long as another whipped free-kick from Sloma was met by central defender Guy Morris who lost his marker and connected with a downward header into the net.
A goal to the good, GB were looking in good shape with the defensive and midfield playing as a unit and Hakim, Matt Stock and Mitch Hahn looking threatening.
With former Wycombe Wanderers starlet Scott Shulton a growing influence, GB pressed on. Shulton stung the hands of the keeper with a powerful effort that was tipped over.
The determined Shulton was almost rewarded for his industry when he charged down a clearance from the keeper but the ball rolled wide.
Good work involving Shulton and Hahn resulted in the latter stinging the hands of the keeper with a sweetly-struck volley.
It was all GB at this stage although with such a slender advantage, they had to remain alert at the back.
Having his best game of the tournament so far, Shulton was pulling the strings.
GB finished the half strongly and they came close to doubling their lead on the stroke of half time. A good move involving Hakim, Sloma and Stock saw the North West Neasden man surge into the box but his final touch was heavy and the chance had gone.
Sloma came close on 43 minutes with a low free-kick curling inches wide.
1-0 at half time, GB were looking good for the semis.
It was the USA who made the better start to the second half. They pushed GB back deep into their half, forcing them to defence for long spells.
Under the cosh, GB remain cool, compact and organised in defence and had it not been for a stunning finger-tip save from keeper Andy Goldman, America would have been back on level terms.
Supersub Daniel Stanton, on for captain Sam Sloma, came within inches of netting goal number two. A quick free-kick caught USA napping and Stanton sent a vicious swerving effort goalwards. The ball was deflected and hit the bar. America had escaped.
Content to soak up USA pressure, GB knew that they would have to take their next chance to kill off the game and that is exactly what they did.
The all-important second goal arrived on 78 minutes. It was a replica of GB’s second goal against Brazil. Substitute Michael Warwick found time and space down the left. He whipped in a delicious cross that Shulton sent back across the face of goal for goal-poacher Hakim to add the finishing touch for his third goal of the competition.
It was game over. GB booked themselves a medal match with another excellent display against a well-drilled USA team.
Manager Jonathan Kestenbaum said: “Job done. We played in this stadium four days ago and underperformed against France. That was probably the spur we needed to put in two sensational displays and clean sheets against Brazil and USA.
“This was against a USA team who were finalists four years ago and we tipped again. At this stage, we have gone further than any British Maccabiah team for 40 years.
“I have a sneaky feeling that the boys are not done yet.”
Looking ahead to the semi-final against Israel, Kestenbaum said: “It will be tough as we’ll be up against international standard footballers.”
Captain Sam Sloma commented: “I’m over the moon. We didn’t play as well as against Brazil but worked so hard and showed huge mental strength. We were stronger than USA and I’m really proud of the boys.
Looking ahead to the Israel game, he said: “They beat South Africa 1-0 in their quarter-final and will be a good team, I’m sure. But I hope our quality and character will take us through.
Craig Ellis said: “The last couple of games have been big squad performances. It’s not just about the 1st XI. We’re very confident at the moment.”
Keeper Andy Goldman said: “We grinded really hard as a unit. The gaffer keeps reminding us that it’s a 90-minute game. We’ve got confidence to go on and win it now.”
Mindful that it has been a squad effort, Goldman added: “My biggest help has been Danny Berliner.”
Scott Shulton said: “I came into the squad late but they boys have been great. I’m delighted and excited.
“I came to Israel to win a medal. Israel is just another game of football and we’re confident that with the same work ethic that it will be a good game.”
Defender Michael Sacks said: “This is massive. I’m delighted. We worked hard and showed great team spirit. Everyone played for each other. They are extremely talented boys with a great attitude. Now we’ve got two shots at a medal.”
Winger Michael Warwick said: “We’ve worked very hard to reach the semis. We had confidence that we were going to surprise everyone.
With an Israel mother, the former Stoke City and Israel youth player added: “I’m very excited about playing Israel”
Danny Berg said: “We’re looking forward to it.”
GB: Andy Goldman 8, David Soutar 7, Michael Sacks 8, Guy Morris 8, Craig Ellis 8, Jonathan Kurrant (sub: Ben Lauffer 55, 7), 7, Sam Sloma (capt) 8 (sub: Daniel Stanton 65, 8), Scott Shulton 9 (sub: Danny Berg 85, 7), Mitch Hahn 8 (sub: James Gershfield 68, 7) Paul Hakim 8, Matt Stock 7 (sub: Michael Warwick 60, 8). Subs not used: Danny Berliner, Alex Levack
Man of the match: Scott Shulton
JC Big match stats
On target: 5
On target: 4