NATHAN HORWITZ MMFL DIVISION TWO CUP sponsored by ‘Atlantis Travel’
EDRS STONEGROVE 2 LONDON MACCABI LIONS 2 (EDRS won 6-5 on penalties)
After three successive defeats in the last three finals, EDRS Stonegrove came back from two goals down to the newly-crowned Masters Cup winners, London Maccabi Lions, to win the Division 2 Cup after a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
On a cold, blustery morning, Lions fielded a strong squad and showed understandable confidence in their chances of pulling off a Cup ‘double’ following their impressive 4-1 win over Division oNE champions North London Raiders in Tuesday evening’s Henry Swerner Cup Final.
And the odds on that double shortened after just 20 minutes when Tuesday night’s hat-trick hero, Bradley Lazarus, opened their account with a sublime chip over Larry Radivan in the EDRS goal.
In fairness, EDRS had their share of possession in the first half, albeit without creating any clear-cut chances, but with Barnett Horwitz dominant as ever at the back, Lions looked unlikely to relinquish their grip on the trophy they have won in two of the last three seasons.
With just a single goal separating the teams, though, any outcome seemed possible, but five minutes into added time at the end of the first half, Marc Morris struck a hammer blow, as he found himself unmarked on the righthand edge of the EDRS six-yard box, and planted his shot low into the bottom corner to give Lions a 2-0 lead going into the break.
And to make things worse, Radivan had to submit to an injury at half time, being replaced by substitute stopper, Paul Gelernter, then also lost Malcolm Joseph just after the break.
Nevertheless, in the second period, EDRS seemed determined to keep themselves in the tie, and with the wind slightly more in their favour, found it easier to get the ball down, and move it forward. And they were rewarded on the hour when the breeze contributed to Russell Rich’s corner finding its way into the Lions goal at the far post to give the Sky Blues a glimmer of hope. Indeed, having failed to score in each of the past three finals, the goal was greeted as if they had won the trophy!
However, the goal spurred Lions into a positive response, and Gelernter had to make several important interventions to prevent EDRS slipping further behind.
Lazarus started to impose himself ominously on the EDRS defence, firstly netting – only to see referee Nigel Kyte rule it out for handball – then moments later firing a shot just the wrong side of the post. Put though again just a minute later, he was adjudged to be offside, and when he blasted the ball over the bar in frustration, the referee added a second yellow card to the one he received for a foul in the first half, sending Lions’ talisman back to the team dug-out.
Encouraged by the numerical advantage, EDRS pressed forward with increasing determination, but couldn’t seem to find a way through a resolute Lions back-line.
The breakthrough came with just 10 minutes of the 90 remaining. Good work down the EDRS right led to a near-post cross from Ian Sassoon, and in his efforts to clear it, Lions’ defender Darren Young could do no more than head it past his own goalie to level the scores at 2-2.
With exhaustion setting in, neither team had the energy to muster a winner in the remaining minutes, so the final whistle signalled the spectacle of a penalty shoot-out which was to prove every bit as dramatic as the match itself.
The first two spot-kicks, scored by EDRS defender Tony Platman and Lions striker Marc Morris respectively, were routine enough, but there was controversy over the next, with Russell Rich having to take it three times before registering a goal, his first two misses being voided by the referee for incursions from his line by Lions’ ‘keeper, Jeremy Reuben, who earned himself a yellow card for repeating his misdemeanour.
Simon Black’s next penalty was easily saved by Gelernter, giving EDRS a 2-1 advantage, and with Steve Krieger and David Kyte both scoring in the next ‘round’, EDRS maintained their edge, standing 3-2 ahead after three kicks each. But Jon Holman put his kick past the left-hand post, so when Michael Abrahams slotted home, it effectively took the contest to sudden death at 3-3.
The last of the scheduled five kicks were taken by Gelernter and Lions captain, Mark Jacob, and both were converted, leaving the score at 4-4, and successful kicks from Phil Silver and Simon Barr notched it up to 5-5.
EDRS left back Jon Kaye then seemed to have spoiled an otherwise tremendous display when his effort was saved by Reuben to hand the advantage to Lions, and when the scorer of the equalising own goal, Young, stepped forward with a chance to win in for Lions, it would have made up for his earlier misfortune in fitting style, but once again, the inspired Gelernter kept EDRS in the competition.
Next up was EDRS founder-player-manager, Ian Leader, and his firmly-struck penalty into the right-hand side netting made it 6-5 and capped off a wonderful performance from him, leaving Lions’ Danny Schindler needing to score to keep Lions in it. But Schindler, whose headed equaliser had set Lions on the path to victory in the Henry Swerner Cup Final only five days earlier, could only watch in agony as his kick sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, only to cannon off the crossbar, handing the trophy to EDRS in the most dramatic of conclusions.
After three successive defeats, this was a sweet victory for EDRS. Known for their passing football, inclusivity and sporting approach, few would begrudge the club – and especially their management team of Ian Leader and Gary Shaw – this day of glory.