CYRIL ANEKSTEIN CUP ROUND ONE
MACCABI LONDON LIONS WHITE 2 REAL HENDON 1
This much anticipated David-Goliath match up saw the experienced heads of Real Hendon give the Premier League young guns London Lions White a battle and a scare.
The Bees started strongly, taking the game to the Lions with early chances for Benny Goldberg and Lolu Hibbert. But the Lions soon began to dominate possession, with Hendon player-manager Martin Smulovitch forced off with a groin strain after only 20 minutes.
Despite all their neat passing, the Lions could find no way past debutant Raffy Zysblat in goal and began to grow frustrated - the rock-like Gilad Kestenbaum and Doron Shooter reducing the Premier League team to speculative long-range efforts and easily repelled corners.
With the scores level at half-time, it was clear that the Bees were living up to the pre-match talk and giving the Lions a real game. Soon, the Bees delivered a sting with Rafi Addlestone getting the better of the Lions winger Perl in the centre of the park. Perl didn't take kindly to a strong challenge in the air and reacted, leaving referee Darryl Colmans with little option but to send off the winger.
Going down to 10 men seemed to inspire the Lions, with calmer heads allowing more discipline both in and out of possession. With better fitness starting to tell, young (and remarkably polite) striker Levin was able to stick a loose ball home.
But Hendon didn't give up. Jamie Jackson in the Lions goal was very nearly caught out by a long-range Lolu Hibbert chip. Hezzie Raymond continued to drive down the left and Adam Hersh continued to find half chances.
Despite the Bees efforts, Lions soon poached a second with a lovely move and finish fromJordan Levy from just outside the box.
The yellow and blacks still weren't done. Raging forward, Hersh took a wonderful through ball from Goldberg, chipping the ball over the on-rushing 'keeper into an empty net.
As Hendon pushed forward, gaps began to open up and soon Levin was free behind the defence - only for Hezzie Raymond to make a goal -aving tackle as he bore down on Zysblat. Gershfield on the sideline screamed for a penalty, but referee Colmans was left unmoved - perhaps reflecting on the tone of the 'advice' he was offered from the Lions bench.
With a minute to go, the Bees continued to push for an equaliser. Chaim Strom charged down the right and whipped in a cross for Hersh, who with the goal gaping, sliced his volley wide.
Soon, Colmans blew the whistle, and both sides left satisfied - Lions with their first win of the season, and Real Hendon with their heads held high after a superbly fought battle.
Lions boss James Gershfield told JC Sport: "Real Hendon put in a great shift and were very organised from the first whistle. They defended well and the longer the game went on it seemed an upset could be on the cards.
"We went down to 10 men in the second half - Conor Perl got sent off - and the boys responded well. We took the lead and Real then had to go for the game and that allowed us to catch them on the break and score the second.
"Overall it’s good to finally get the win and hopefully the boys can build on today when we entertain Lions Blue next week."
Real's Raffi Addelstone told JC Sport: "We did ourselves proud, the boys fighting tooth and nail for the shirt. On another day, we could have won the game - the Lions' finishing and fitness proving just too much for us in the end.
"There were epic performances all over the pitch, with Raffy Zysblat outstanding on his debut in goal, and Hezzie Raymond in particular, running his guts out up and down the left wing. If we play like that every week, we'll be pushing for the Division Two title."