NEWFUTSALPICIn arguably the hardest fixture of the season so far, Maccabi GB faced an extremely robust and physical opponent in Kaunas FC, in what their latest match in the FA Futsal Cup Quarter-Final mini league.

Centred around a largely Lithuanian community and considred to be one of the best Futsal teams in England, Kaunas had already emphatically won their first FA Cup Quarter-Final Mini-League game against Oxford Futsal 14-0 last weekend. Maccabi GB won their opener against a well-organised Carlisle Futsal outfit the week prior, 4-1, meaning both Kaunas and Maccabi GB topped the group with three points apiece.

The format for the FA Futsal Cup QF Mini-League groups sees the top two from the table progress to the Semi-Finals. They will be joined by the eight teams that did not make it to the Grand Finals, taking place at St. George’s Park at the end of May. Therefore this game was pivotal for momentum in securing one of those two top spots to make it into the next stage.

Maccabi GB Futsal could not have started any quicker – with 9 seconds on the clock and straight from their kick-off, Kurrant received the ball deep. He engaged his man, played a one-two with Shulton down the left flank, rolled the ball past the defender and, from an acute angle, toe-poked the ball into the bottom right hand corner to make it 1-0.

Kaunas were clearly shocked and could not find their rhythm. Maccabi GB continued to dominate and had a flurry of set-pieces that were sent whistling past the Kaunas upright. Bernstein was the next closest when he shimmied to get the ball onto his favoured left foot and found his effort sail past the right hand upright.

Clearly frustrated by the way Maccabi GB had started, tempers began to flare and this was evident when, from a Maccabi GB set-piece, the Kaunas keeper just caught the ball before Barnett could notch, but momentum carried both into each other. The Kaunas keeper feigned injury and dropped the ball purposefully, Barnett took advantage and smashed the ball home. The officials decided it was a foul and un-needed aggression from Barnett and bizarrely decided to book both players.

Midway through the half Kaunas found their feet. Their devastating physicality and counter-attacking pace began to unfold and Lipman’s goal became under siege. Set-piece after set-piece flew past the goal and heroics from Shulton and Olcot kept the scoreline in the home side’s favour.

The pressure finally told unfortunately. Fantastic pressing by the Kaunas pivot caught Shulton mid-way up the court and allowed a 1v1 with Lipman. The pivot took the ball and rounded Lipman to slot the ball home. 1-1 and the game was evenly poised.

Kaunas should have gone 2-1 up straight after. a great 2v1 counter was rapidly onrushing Lipman’s goal. However, Gordon-Boyd sprinted to try and deflect the ball away and pulled off the tackle of the season to stop play 8 metres from the Maccabi GB goal.

The Kaunas keeper decided to take a risk when Olcot missed a chance from the back post and he took the ball out for a counter that ended in MGB capitalising. Just inside his own half, Bernstein nicked the ball and stroked it towards the top left corner, only for the Kaunas cierre (6ft 5 and probably the same width), to head the ball off the line.

With seven minutes to go before half-time, the earlier tussle between Barnett and the Kaunas GK proved crucial. Shulton was set free down the right flank and the keeper came out to shut down the angle. Shulton flew past the keeper on for Maccabi GB’s top goalscorer to be brought down. A second bookable offence and a red card was shown.

With only one goalkeeper in their ranks, Kaunas had to regroup and put an outfield player in goal. From the resultant free kick, Kurrant blasted the ball and a stunning save by the stand-in kept the score level. MGB had two minutes to play against four men and tried to tire out the physical Kaunas. A combination of frustration and rushed play meant Kaunas did extremely well in those two minutes to keep the score level.

However, the task of keeping Maccabi GB out with a man less proved tiring. As soon as Kaunas had their fifth man enter the fold again, a great block by Shulton freed Kurrant on the counter-attack. Bernstein and Olcot sprinted to create the 3v1 overload and Kurrant played it left for Olcot to smash home. 2-1 MGB! HT: Maccabi GB Futsal 2-1 Kaunas

From the restart, Kaunas took full control of the game, barricading the Maccabi GB goal. Lipman had to be on fire to keep out effort after effort.

It was soon all-square. Maccabi GB were pulled apart from quick passing and great movement from Kaunas, and a stunning finish threw the Kaunas support into raptures. Maccabi GB had to be very careful that they did not let this one slip away. 2-2.

Kaunas were obviously giving Maccabi GB a lot more respect and, in turn, it meant their organisation was a lot better, making it incredibly hard for MGB to break them down. Kaunas were definitely in control and Maccabi GB had to do something in order to get a foothold back into the game.

Play became very gritty with no clear-cut chances. Maccabi GB were defending doggedly and both teams were nullifying the other. That was until a sideline Radford won down in the bottom hand corner was taken by Kurrant. He let fly and toe-poked his effort through the keeper’s legs and into the net. MGB were ahead for the third time in the game!

Kaunas threw everything but the kitchen sink to get back in it but Maccabi GB could have gone further ahead when a 6th foul was committed by Kaunas. Radford had the ball in the back of the net but was made to retake it because the whistle had not been blown, resulting in a yellow card too.

Shulton took the retake and agonisingly missed, but MGB held on for a fantastic victory for the Division 2 Champions. That now makes it 17 games played, 16 won and 1 draw for the MGB squad this season.

Man-of-the Match was unquestionably Olcot for an all-round finesse display. Maccabi GB Futsal now have a week-off for Pesach before travelling down to Swindon to play Oxford at the @Futsal Arena on 27th April.

Starting V:
23. Daniel Lipman
3. Alex Olcot
8. Scott Shulton
11. Jamie Bernstein
12. Jon Kurrant

Subs:
5. Jordan Davidson
6. Alex Norman
9. Gideon Barnett
10. Jonah Gordon-Boyd
14. Aviel Schwarz
19. Max Radford

Goalscorers:
Kurrant x2
Olcot x1