GARSTON VETS LEAGUE
GARSTON 0 MACCABI LONDON LIONS 5
A hat-trick from captain Bradley Lazarus inspired Maccabi London Lions to an outstanding 5-0 victory over Garston.
Knowing your opponents can pay handsome dividends. History has taught MLL that today’s opponents in Garston Vets are regular title challengers and often winners.
More recent history points to the London Lions power shift from underdogs to favourites, and despite this away trip being so early in the season, can already be described as a “must win six pointer” ... no time for complacency.
With the Essex contingent of Alex Levack, Hadley Silver, Adam Kay and Paul Lenchner unavailable, the Lions needed to be at their very best to get a result, and so it proved.
In the opening period, where the game wouldn’t be won but possibly lost, the primary objective was to nullify the Garston threat. As explained by manager Dan Reuben pre kick-off, clipped diagonal crosses to the back post is a key feature in the home side’s armoury.
Whilst the Lions back-line possess aerial strength in Rob Glass, Adam Myeroff and Andrew Myers, there was no doubt that the goal keeper would be called into action. On a number of occasions, Rob Abrahams rose highest to fend off and punch clear any high balls, restricting Garston from getting any joy from this tactic. That said, the first real chance of the game did fall the home side’s way.
Following a mis-placed pass, a little overplaying and a momentary slip at the back, a square ball fell kindly to the Garston forward who smashed against the left-hand upright from 12 yards.
This sparked the Lions to go up another gear. As a team, the intensity in the pressing game had the visitors dominating. As Craig Pearl was finding more and more space in the so called pocket to receive the ball, chances were sure to come and the signs there when Pearl slipped in Radford to fire a low drive that the covering defender deflected for a corner.
JOn Rayner, the marauding full-back that he is, was up and down the right hand side as always. In a moment of role-reversal, it was all about triangles. The covering Radford won the ball off Garston’s left-winger in the corner and quickly fed the ball to the more advanced Rayner, driving to the half way line, he squared back inside for Radford and Pearl to exchange a sharp 1-2-3 in the move , and with the ball back at his feet, Pearl threaded superb pass to slip in Adam Harvey who faced with a one-on-one, coolly slotted home past the onrushing keeper giving the Lions a deserved lead.
This kind of 'tiki-taka' goal must have had Reuben thinking that he’d just witness the goal of the game, regardless of what followed. He was wrong! The energy in the team press was now synchronised enough to suffocate any Garston possession.
Just before half-time, Lazarus's variation in movement, link-up play and drive would surely see him rewarded. Receiving the ball to the left, the ball bouncing in front of him, unleashed a 30-yard volley that screamed over the keeper clipping the underside of the bar into the far top corner.
Again Reuben must have been thinking this was wonder goal of the match ... sadly he was again wrong as Lazarus had been denied by the offside flag.
With a 1-0 lead, the second half began much as the first ended, with Lions in total control and on the front foot.
The high-intensity pressing game was rewarded with a free-kick 25 yards out. With Lazarus having had a good sight or two at goal, Danny Daggers kindly "let" the skipper take it on. It was a wise choice as the low drive flew past the wall, bodies and goalie into the bottom left corner.
Within a minute or two, Glass drove forward and set up Lazarus who again fired a fierce strike from outside the box. This time the keeper found it too hot to handle. Deservedly, Lazarus doubled his tally which saw the Lions three goals to the good.
Garston were now being overrun. Any advances they had were easily dealt with by the defence. The one time they did look to get in following a Myers slip, he "cleverly" scooped the ball with his hand to deny them the break.
With Matt Kleinman, Daggers and Pearl dominating central areas, Harvey, who by now had covered every blade of grass, was disrupting any ambition the home side had of getting back in the game. By now Abrahams was thankful that he was the only one with a long sleeve top to keep him warm as was troubled no more and a clean sheet looked inevitable.
It was time to seal the win in style. A Lions counter saw Gideon Barnett in possession just inside the opposition half. As he drove forward towards the area in what was a 4 s 2 situation, Pearl and Radford both available and unmarked on the edge of the box, Barnett had other ideas. With that, he let fly a superb strike that flew into the far top left corner from 25 yards… followed by a little look, wink and a smile that said “Brad, Anything you can do…..!
But Lazarus wasn't done yet ... once again, following some great-to-watch team play, Lazarus smashed another long-range rocket into the top corner, sealing a memorable hat-trick, a Man of the Match display and a resounding victory against an old nemesis.