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Lions Vets clinch place in semi-finals of AFA Trophy

In the first part of their weekend double header, Maccabi London Lions’ 40+ squad had enough to see off last season’s champions Albanians, without ever really being at their best, in this well-contested quarter-final.

    AFA VETS TROPHY QUARTER-FINAL

    MACCABI LONDON LIONS 4 ALBANIANS 3

    The hosts started well and controlled a game that was very well refereed. The back-line coped comfortably with Albanians’ forward passes, giving stability from which the side could express themselves.

    However, despite a lot of good play, some of the final passing lacked the crispness required to make headway against an equally efficient visitor’s defence. A superb move down the Lions right saw Craig Pearl release Jon Rayner. He danced passed his full back before cutting back to Paul Lenchner who saw his first time effort quite brilliantly saved by the keeper.

    The breakthrough goal did arrive however on the half hour and a fine team goal it was. From Tony Gold at left back the ball was worked to Hadley Silver via Pearl’s sweet pass. He jinked his way beyond his man before firing a pinpoint ball into the feet of Lenchner who showed great strength and precense of mind to first hold the ball up and then lay the ball off to Pearl who, from the edge of the box, took a touch before curling home a fine finish.

    Pete Lazard and Andy Myers continued to repel any threats Albanians could throw at them, and with the energy that Matt Kleinman, Danny Sugarman and Mark Wagman were now providing saw Lions again on the front foot.

    Another fine move, 10 minutes into the second half, almost saw Lions double their lead, but Wagman’s finish was adjudged to have come off his arm despite his protests to the contrary. But he more than made up for it shortly after when Rayner fed him in down the right. Showing fleet off foot, tenacity and then composure he burst clear, held off his man before picking out Lenchner’s run, the Lions hitman sweeping the cross home into the bottom corner for an excellent goal.

    And when just past the hour Wagman ran onto Sugarman’s perfect pass the net soon bulged to give Lions a 3-0 cushion.

    Albanian however weren’t about to give up, and their excellent No. 11 weaved his way through the Lions backline with great skill before lashing past Brad Lee to reduce the arrears.

    There followed one or two nervy moments – Lee made a good block after he and Myers got in a muddle, Myers himself then throwing his body in the way to stop a certain goal. But on the break Lions remained a constant threat, and having spurned two or three good openings they restored their three-goal lead – Gold’s super cross didn’t get the finish it deserved, but having failed to turn in the initial ball, Max Radford recovered the ball and, from the tightest of angles, clipped the ball back across on the turn. Cross or shot? – as Barry Davies once said “quite frankly who cares”, the ball looping over the stranded keeper and dropping into the net.

    That really should have been that, but Lions’ attempts to play keep ball in the last five minutes proved not to be a strength, and two mis-placed passes were capitalised on as Albanian scored twice to suddenly reduce the arrears to just the one.

    Thankfully with only 30 seconds remaining after the third went in the hosts were able to see the game out and take their place in the semi finals.

    LIONS: Brad Lee, Jon Rayner, Tony Gold, Pete Lazard, Andy Myers, Matt Kleinman, Danny Piler Craig Pearl, Hadley Silver, Paul Lenchner, Max Radford. Subs: Danny Sugarman, Mark Wagman, Craig Henry

    SCORERS: Pearl, Lenchner, Wagman, Radford

    MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Craig Pearl

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