Watford Friendly League U18 Div
London Lions 6 Panathinaikos 3
Sunday, 19 May, 2013
The Holy Grail of winning the top division of the u18 Watford Friendly League was finally achieved by a talented u18 London Lions side, as they secured the title in dramatic fashion.
Entering the final day the league, any one of four sides could have ended the day as champions in what was the climax of an incredibly competitive season.
Needing a win from their final match against Panathinaikos to guarantee at least a share of the title, the largest crowd of the season stood in anticipation on the touchline at Rowley Lane as the teams took to the pitch.
Lions started cautiously with good possession but with few chances created, the relief around the ground was palpable as Michael Kenley netted to give Lions the lead after 15 minutes
A trademark curler from outside the area soon followed from Adam Arnold and Lions went comfortably 3-0 up on the half hour mark with a sizzling shot from Stanley Offord which the Panathinaikos keeper was unable to keep out.
Lions then switched off and for a ten minute spell Panathinaikos took control with Sam Greenberg having to work hard in goal to allow Lions to maintain the lead.
However, an intricate move from the left flank and a decisive finish from the Panathinaikos striker, pulled the score back to 3-1, before Adam Arnold found the net again with a low driving shot from the edge of the area to take the score to 4-1 at half-time.
The game seemed all but over ten minutes into the second half when Arnold bagged his hat trick to push Lions into a 5-1 lead, only for keeper Greenberg to have to leave the field with a hand injury following a reflex save. Ben Halmer took over in goal and with Panathinaikos throwing caution to the wind, two consecutive goals brought the score back to 5-3.
With 20 minutes still left to play, Lions supporters were feeling decidedly less comfortable until man of the match Arnold spotted the Panathinaikos goalkeeper off his line to chip him from 25 yards to seal a 6-3 victory.
As the final whistle sounded, Lions players and supporters celebrated as captain Levi Levenfiche led his players off the pitch in the knowledge that history had been made at the club to the sound of popping champagne corks and the traditional euphoric chanting of ‘Championes’.
A mile or so down the road Borehamwood Youth were simultaneously battling with Alexandra Park East and by narrowly winning that match with the odd goal in five, they were able to match Lions’ points tally for the season ensuring that the league title would be shared between the two clubs
This match marked a fitting and emotional end to an incredible journey for the squad, with a number of players having made over 200 appearances in a Lions shirt since starting out as U8s, and from which six players will be representing the Maccabi GB team at u18 level in Israel this summer.
Back row: Ben Halmer, Zak Skry, Sam Greenberg, Michael Kenley, Sami Zerovabeli, Casey Sharpe, Stanley Offord, Josh Curtis, Rob Cohen
Front row: Daniel Nikolopulos, Adam Arnold, Boaz Goldwater, Levi Levenfiche(c), David Seitler