JC CYRIL ANEKSTEIN CUP FINAL
LONDON MACCABI LIONS A 5 REDBRIDGE JEWISH CARE A 2
Lions manager Andy Landesberg believes the future looks bright after his team came from two goals down to win the JC Cyril Anekstein Cup at Wingate & Finchley on Sunday.
Goals from Bradley Lander, David Nezri, Nick Lewis, James Gershfield and Jordan Marks sparked a night of celebration for this young Lions team, in a match that courted controversy early on.
Lions fashioned the first chance of the match as Maccabiah-bound Jordan Marks raced through on goal but his weak connection allowed Daniel Lee in the Redbridge goal to collect calmly.
The biggest talking point of the match came with 15 minutes on the clock. A sliderule through ball from Jack Van Gelder released top-scorer Adam Stolerman who touched the ball past onrushing Lions keeper Daniel Lipman only to be brought down in the penalty area. The ball was rolled into the unguarded net by a Redbridge player, but referee Tony McEvoy had already blown his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.
There was a deadly hush around the Harry Abrahams Stadium as McEvoy called Lipman over, but the keeper breathed a big sigh of relief as he was shown a yellow card, rather than the red that many in the crowd had expected.
Stolerman dusted himself down before sending Lipman the wrong way with his spot-kick to give the 2011 cup winners the upper hand.
The woodwork then came to the rescue of both sides within a frantic 60 seconds. Lions' Max Kyte unleashed a ferocious dipping volley from 30 yards, but the ball cannoned back off the crossbar with Lee beaten. RJC broke away and Stolerman sent a delicate lob goalwards, but the ball hit the underside of the bar and into the grateful arms of the fortunate Lipman.
The pain caused by the earlier challenge from Lipman resulted in Stolerman hobbling off and Dean Nyman was introduced.
The Lions were also forced into a first-half substitute as TJ Keterman limped off and was replaced by Nick Lewis.
RJC continued to threaten and they doubled their lead in bizarre fashion as a dangerous cross from Jack Van Gelder was sliced into his own net by Lions defender Ollie Leslie.
But the Lions halved the deficit in the 44th minute when Lander nodded home a far-post corner to give Andy Landesberg's men a major boost.
Nyman's pace and movement asked questions of the Lions defence in the second half and it needed a magnificent finger-tip save from the busy Lipman to keep out a shot destined for the top corner. The same player also went close with a half-volley that whistled inches wide.
Lions drew level from another set-piece as Nezri showed great technique to send a volley goalwards and the connection proved too hot for Lee to handle as the ball ended up in the roof of the net.
The Lions now had the bit between their teeth and they stormed ahead when super-sub Lewis climbed highest to send a bullet header past Lee from another corner to make it 3-2 amid some poor marking from RJC.
As the final moved into the final 10 minutes, RJC were forced to throw caution to the wind and two excellent breakaway goals added insult to injury. First super-sub Gershfield raced through to go around Lee and slip the ball into an unguarded net, before the impressive Marks produced a copybook finish to complete the scoring.
And with London Lions having won the Spartan South Midlands Division One title 24 hours earlier, it completed a memorable weekend for the club.
Lions boss Andy Landesberg told JC Sport: "We were very nervous for the first 25 minutes but were ultimately the fitter and stronger team.
"The goal before half-time won the game for us and I said to the boys in the changing room that we would win 5-2.
"We've come a long way this season and I'm proud of the boys as it was really important to get something out of the season."
Landesberg revealed after the final whistle that he and coach James Gershfield have extended their contracts and will continue to lead the team again next season.
"We used eight 19-year-olds - they were all my under-18’s from last season. It's been a great weekend for the club. I think we have a bright future. Redbridge have some quality players but we ran out worthy winners in the end."
Asked for his views of the penalty incident, Landesberg added: "If that had been us, I'd definitely been shouting at the ref."
Lions captain Aviel Schwarz told JC Sport: "We had so many youngsters in the team today and their nerves showed at the beginning of the match. The goal just before half time was very important. It got us back in it.
"This is a great young team, there's lots of talent here. They have a great future ahead of them."
Redbridge boss Eilon Kennet told JC Sport: "The decision not to send off the Lions keeper was the defining moment. I believe the referee didn't have the "bottle" to send off the keeper We should have been playing against 10 men from that moment and to make it worse, we also lost Stolly, our striker and top-scorer, from injuries sustained from this tackle.
"Having totally dominated the first half, we gifted Lions a goal right on the end of the half and went in 2-1 instead of 2-0.
"To go two goals up in a final should be game, set and match, but once again we allowed the opposition to score from set pieces as a result of poor marking. But the scoreline doesn't really reflect on the game.
"At 3-2 down with less than 10 minutes to go, we played the game out with only three at the back, so we were open to breakaways, which is how the last two goals were scored.
"With out taking anything away from Lions, we didn't get the rub of the green and we suffered at the hands of poor refereeing throughout."
Reflecting on the season, Kennet said: "We reached the semi-final of the Morrison and the final of the Cyril Anekstein and we still have five league games to play. You decide?"
Redbridge captain Adam Hakimi added: "There's no need for me to comment on the referee, but I will - everyone in the stadium witnessed what (never) happened and it is clear to see on camera, but he will have to live with that.
"Congratulations to Andy and his Lions - they have some very talented players whose legs in the last half hour saw them home and fully deserved. I just feel a bit of a nebach that I personally spent the last three weeks running around getting a full new kit after we lost the toss to play in Blue only for Lions to turn up in red!"
Lions: Daniel Lipman, Bradley Lander, Tony Gold, Ollie Leslie, Nick Landesberg, Charlie Rubin (sub: Matt Perlman), Aviel Schwarz (capt), David Nezri (sub: James Gershfield), TJ Keterman (sub: TJ Keterman 30), Jordan Marks, Max Kyte. Unused subs: Yoav Lebens, Andy Landesberg
Booked: Daniel Lipman
Scorers: Bradley Lander 43, David Nezri 62, Nick Lewis 74, James Gershfield 80, Jordan Marks 82
Redbridge: Daniel Lee, Sam McCarthy, Joel Berg, Adam Hakimi (capt), Bradley Frankel, Richie Caplin (sub: Danny Sugarman 80), Danny Hakimi, Ben Sollosi, Jack Van Gelder (sub: Ben Graham 70), Steve Summers, Adam Stolerman (sub: Dean Nyman 25). Unused subs: Sam Sollosi, Steve Gevertz
Booked: Danny Hakimi
Scorers: Adam Stolerman (pen) 17, Own goal 38
JC CUP FINAL STATS
On target: 5
Off target: 7
Cards: Yellows - 1, Reds - 0
On target: 6
Off target: 3
Cards: Yellows - 1, Reds - 0