Two goals from Adam Stolerman plus one from Jonathan Ellis helped the JC MSFL Rep Team make a flying start in the London Inter-League Cup after beating highly-fancied Turkish Federation League A 3-1 at Brimsdown Rovers on Wednesday night.
The Maccabi boys made their intentions clear from kick-off, winning a corner inside the first 10 seconds. Their bold tactics paid dividends almost immediately as Stolerman latched on to a clever pass from Adam Levene to lob the keeper with the ball going in off the underside of the bar inside two minutes.
Jamie Cole’s troops maintained their high-tempo opening with a shot from James Gershfield pushed wide by the Turkish keeper. Minutes later, Gershfield ended a mazy run with a strike that was easily held by the keeper.
The Turkish team did not know what had hit them and they took time to respond, but when they did, they showed their quality as the left-back curled a delicious free-kick over the wall, past keeper Danny Berliner but the ball crashed against the bar and bounced on the goalline before being hacked to safety. The warning bells were ringing as the Turks upped the ante.
Maccabi were dealt a blow where Alex Levack, who partnered Ellis at centre half, limped off with a knee injury that makes him doubtful for Sunday’s JC Cyril Anekstein Cup quarter-final against Oakwood. He was replaced by Redbridge’s Adam Hakimi.
The Turks grew in confidence as the first half wore on and despite some crunching challenges from South Manx’s Paul Babai, an equaliser seemed inevitable.
Berliner came to the rescue on 35 minutes after the Turks beat the offside trap. The Hendon stopper blocked with his legs from a one-on-one situation, with the follow-up fired wide of the unguarded net. The Maccabi No. 1 was called into action seconds later, but he was able to hold on to a far post header.
The Turks deservedly drew level on the stroke of half time. Berliner came out for a hopeful up-and-under into the danger zone but was beaten to the ball and the covering defenders were unable to stop the ball from crossing the line.
And they almost completed a dramatic turnaround with the Turks hitting the bar and seeing the follow-up heroically cleared off the line.
Having weathered the stop and, to some extent, rode their luck, the half time whistle came at a good time for Cole and co.
A few words of wisdom clearly did the trick as the MSFL restored their advantage within the opening minutes of the second half. A delicious free-kick from Stolerman found Ellis unmarked at the far post and ‘Mad dog’ did not need a second invitation to plant a downward header into the net.
With the bit between their teeth, Maccabi drove on and they were in dreamland after 65 minutes when Stolerman was in the right place at the right time to meet a bouncing ball in the box with a clever looping header that nestled in the top corner.
Maccabi introduced some fresh legs in the last quarter with Mike Pearson replacing two-goal hero Stolerman and Jake Gottlieb replacing Lee Cash.
The Turks were denied by the woodwork for the third time as the match drew to a close but given the little bit of lady luck they so deserved, Maccabi ran out worthy winners.
MSFL Rep team managerCole said: “That was the best display I have ever seen from a Jewish team, especially in the second half. I think we can go on to win it now.”
He reserved special praise for Rep team debutant Paul Babai, describing his performance in central midfield as “superb”.
“It was always going to be a close game because they are a good side but it's a tremendous three points. They had several players that play for Rushden and Diamonds, Also a player that is at Charlton.
“It was massive for the MSFL to get a result like this. To win against the Turks is really important. I am really pleased for all of us and David Woolf because everyone was working so hard that I think at the end we deserved to win.
“From the beginning we were doing well in terms of work-rate, it was amazing to see everyone working so hard, defending and also going forward and trying to score.
“But it’s no good just winning this game – we have to go on now and win this tournament now, something that has not been done for a long time."
JC MSFL chairman David Wolff said: “It was an excellent performance. I must give the boys 200 per cent for effort and always wanting to win. Let’s now build on this and try to reach the final. It’s there for the taking.
“It was a really proud night for the league last night and I am delighted to be part of it.”
JC MSFL: Berliner, D. Cole, Levack (sub: Hakimi 25), Ellis, Levene, Lauffer, Stanton (capt), Babai, Cash (sub: Gottlieb), Gershfield, Stolerman (sub: Pearson). Sub not used: Daggers
JC Big Match Stats
On target: 8
Off target: 3
Yellow: 1 (Hakimi – tackle from behind)
On target: 7
Off target: 3
Danny Berliner – should have done better with the goal but commanded his box, showed good handling and bravery and made one crucial block. 8/10
Danny Cole – did not shirk any challenges, stayed on his feet and was a key part of a composed backline. 8/10
Adam Levene – received a late call-up but was Mr Reliable, doing what he does for Neasden week in, week out. Clever assist for the opener. 8/10
Jonny Ellis – the goal capped a massive performance from the man known as Mad Dog. Was a tower of strength and kept the defence on their toes. There’s only one Jonny Ellis! 9/10
Alex Levack – looked in for a busy evening until he got injured. 7/10
Ben Lauffer – filled in well at the back when the team was forced to reshuffle. Was a rock for 90 minutes. 8/10
Daniel Stanton – the MSFL captain tried to get the ball down and play and always tried to keep things moving. Strong in the air and always available for the simple ball. 8/10
STAR MAN Paul Babai: – my man of the match. Put in some bone-crunching tackles that left the Turks know they wouldn’t have things all their own way. Not the biggest player on the pitch by any stretch of the imagination but you wouldn’t have known it. On this performance, it’s no surprise Jamie Cole wants him at Neasden. 10/10
Lee Cash – did not get into the game as much as he’d have liked, but when he did he put in some telling balls, showing searing pace. Good movement and always looked for the ball. Did not shirk defensive responsibility. 8/10
James Gershfield – quicker than Usain Bolt. Showed the Turkish defence a clean pair of heels on more than one occasion. Looked a class act. 8/10
Adam Stolerman – everything he touches turned to goals. Two brilliant finishes put Maccabi in dreamland. Worked tirelessly for the cause. 9/10
Adam Hakimi – Excelled after replacing Levack early on. Did not buckle when under pressure and happy to put himself about. Booked. 8/10
Mike Pearson – played a useful cameo when the team looked to eat up the clock. 7/10
Jake Gottlieb – after replacing Cash, he gave the team extra bite in the middle of the park. 7/10