Oakwood A made history on Sunday, beating Hendon in a dramatic Cyril Anekstein Cup Final to win its first ever cup.
Doing it the hard way, falling behind on three separate occasions over the 120 minutes, they then held their nerve in a tense penalty shoot-out, to finally prevail 6-5.
A “very proud” joint-manager, Daniel Kristall said: “The club has previously been in cup finals but has been very unlucky losing in the final few minutes and on penalties on different occasions. To win in these circumstances makes it even sweeter and we now have silverware two seasons running. The club is now the big name in Jewish football.”
The first 45 minutes offered no glimpse of the action-packed goalfest which was to follow, with the main talking point being an injury picked up by Hendon goalkeeper Russell Corin.
The second half though proved to be a different affair and Brad Wine notched the first of the six goals to put the O’s ahead. However, in what was to be a recurring theme, Hendon drew back on level terms when Avi Korman converted from the penalty spot after Dovi Fehler had been brought down in the box.
Oakwood regained the lead shortly after, through what would prove to be Josh Cuby’s first goal of the afternoon, but again Hendon levelled, when Korman fired home after Oakwood goalkeeper Joe Botchin fumbled.
Cuby produced the moment of the match early in extra-time, embarking on a stunning solo run which, starting on the halfway line, resulted in him coolly slotting home. But just as they were preparing to celebrate, a crazy ten second period in the Oakwood box finally ended in Yoav Kestenbaum firing home.
Providing to be almost as dramatic, the shoot-out, which featured smart stops from both goalkeepers, saw Fehler have the chance to win it, but his effort bounced back off the woodwork. The match was finally won when Botchin kept out Ben Lauffer’s effort to set off wild scenes of celebration.
Kristall said: “This was a great day for the club. An amazing game and a complete emotional roller coaster. To respond from the double injury blow to Brad and Alex Lee, conceding in the 96th minute of normal time and the 120th minute of extra-time, shows you what we are all about. I’m delighted for Joe, it was his first season for Oaks and he was devastated with his mistake a few weeks ago, but he more than made up for it in the final. He kept us in the game and made the crucial penalty saves.”
Believing they deserved to win, given all the heartache they’ve suffered in previous finals, he said: “We got lucky with a couple [of penalties] but cup football has to find a winner and on this occasion it was us. As a club, we have been on the wrong end of shoot outs so it was about time we won one!
The celebrations and scenes at the end were truly incredible.”
Paying tribute to Hendon, he said: “Credit to them, they’re a great side. I firmly believe the best two sides in Jewish football played yesterday. They deserved their league title because they were very consistent and had the same side out most weeks. We struggled in that department but yesterday were able to use an incredible strong 16 which if we hadn’t had, we don’t win this game.
“I want to thanks DC and Adam for putting up with me on the touchline this season, Blanky as well in his new role as club chairman, putting up with my moaning and I also want to offer a big well done to Jason with the B’s on an excellent finish in third place, their best ever position.
“Finally a big thanks to the players who have kept going and worked so hard throughout the season but got their reward yesterday.
“We as a club are progressing and we are winning things. This is our first cup success following last year’s incredible league win. We were disappointed with our finish to the league season where I felt injuries and lack of squad depth eventually caught up on us but to finish runners up and with cup makes the season another huge success. We will work hard over the summer to strengthen the squad and come back even better in September. For now, we look forward to a nice summer break.”
Hendon joint-player-manager Greg Corin felt his side were the better team on the day, though for one reason or another, things didn’t fall for them. He said: “I was very pleased with the attitude and the spirit within the squad and proud of the performance. It wasn’t our best game but we kept battling and got ourselves back into the game on three occasions. We had a sudden injury to our goalkeeper in the build up to one of the goals we conceded as well as having an admin miscommunication with our sub goalkeeper who we had thought was selected for our bench. Putting that all to one side, the stars just weren’t aligned for us today.
“We lost because we hit the wrong side of the post from a penalty and it shows the slim margins in football and the difference between the two sides on the day.
“My view is that we are the better of the two teams and although we weren’t at our best, we showed that in the game. We had an injury to our goalkeeper and because of the admin mix-up, no sub goalkeeper registered on the bench. These were the reasons for conceding two of the three goals. I felt that generally we had the majority of the possession and played the game in Oakwood’s half of the pitch for most of the match. However, Oakwood are a tough side, they defended well and had a very good left winger who gave us problems on the counter attack and he managed to break through as we tired towards the end of the game.”
Confident going into the shoot-out having equalised for the third time with practically the last kick of the game, he said: “I must say I thought we could take the momentum into the shootout and we did to be honest. Russ pulled off a save and we had then had a chance to win the shootout but it wasn’t to be. It’s always a lottery and a cruel way to decide any football match.”
Despite the disappointment of yesterday’s defeat, winning the Premier Division meant he can still reflect back on a successful season.
“It’s been a great season”, he said. “We have tremendous players who have brought more consistency to their game and it’s been a pleasure to manage. The player side of me has struggled because of the demands of the role which has been hard on a personal level as I want to play more, but this was a season for me to give back to Hendon after so many great years playing and winning trophies for the club. What we all thought was to be a transitional year for Hendon, has been a very successful one and I was always of the thought that if I was going to take up the player-manager role, I had to give it my all and its certainly paid off which is great for us all.
“I’m not sure what the future now holds for my role at Hendon but with such an excellent squad and more young players joining next season, the future is looking bright.”