MASTERSBALLWEBA statement of intent” is the way that Ra’anana co-manager Avi Wiesenberg described his team’s performance on Saturday night and they certainly did that as they put ten goals past Inter Tel Aviv as a rejuvenated squad ensured Tel Aviv received a harsh initiation into the Olim League.

Despite some early pressure from Ra’anana, fine saves and good defending from Inter left Ra’anana wondering where their first goal would come from.  The answer took around 15 minutes when Chanani Corney broke free on the left-wing delivering a fine ball across for Chaim Elimelech, he scuffed his first contact but managed to recover to scramble the ball over the line and take Ra’anana into the lead.

Chanani again showed his speed  in the 25th minute when he won the ball in the middle of the park and drove forward rounding three players before delivering a fine goal into the top left corner. It looked like plain sailing for Ra’anana as inter heads started to drop. Complacency at the back allowed Inter back into the game a corner that Ra’anana failed to clear allowing Mike Langer to net Inter’s first goal in the league.

Just minutes before the break Ra’anana regained the two-goal advantage, Gabi Kanikosfky held the ball up on the edge of the box looking for an option and eventually played a delightful chip to Chanani across to his lift who laid on on perfect cross for Aviad Ben Meir to slot into the bottom right for a goal of highest quality. Aviad Ra’anana’s top scorer last season hasn’t lost any of of his composure in front of goal over the summer.

After the break and with the introduction of more pace, Ra’anana pushed higher up the pitch and forced inter onto the ropes. Fast interchanging play by Ra’anana left the Inter defense chasing shadows. Aviad scored a further hat-trick of goals in quick succession with excellent link up play with Chaim.  With the game won at this point Ra’anana settled into a good rhythm allow Gabi Kanikofsky the freedom to play some beautiful football and eventually get on the score sheet rounding the keeper.

Gabi also turned playmaker for goal number eight setting up Udi Hazan. The relentless pressure resulted in a booking for the Inter keeper as Aviad tried to round him for what must have felt like the 20th time of the game. The penalty (taken by Wiesenberg) rocked the cross bar with Gav Lebens being the first to respond setting up Aviad for his fifth of the night. Inter pulled a consolation goal back with five minutes on the clock but any hopes of recovery had long since faded. The goal scoring ended as it started, a strong finish from Chaim Elimlech to bag his second of the night. Ra’anana Co-Manager Moshe Freedman said after the game: “We have a really strong squad this season with the right blend of experience and youth. I believe this is the year that some of our younger players will prove their maturity and combined with a strong backbone of veterans we will go on this season to compete for the title.”

In the other opening fixtures, England FC and Jerusalem kicked off the new season with a 4-3 thriller. The two Olim League heavyweights, who founded the league a number of years ago, turned up with their sights set on victory.

Jerusalem came out the stronger dominating the midfield and creating a number of chances. They deservedly took the lead within ten minutes through a well worked goal finished by Lolu Hibbert. This was doubled a few minutes later when Moishe Lewis opened his account for the season.
England regrouped and led by captain Tal Stern in the midfield repelled the Jerusalem tide and reduced the deficit to 2-1 with a smooth finish from Gaby Balulu. Both sides continued to push forward but it was England that struck again next leveling at 2-2, through their new signing from Hendon Utd, Yishai Last. The game continued in the same manner with both sides playing open, attacking football. It was England again who struck to take a 3-2 lead, again through Gaby Balulu, taking England into the break with the lead.
Both sides came out fighting again in the second half but were unable to penetrate the opponents’ defense. But Jerusalem kept pressing and equalised with an excellent move that ended in Moishe Lewis slotting in from close-range to level at 3-3 with 15 minutes to go.
The final word was to go to England though as Motti Colman, a strong presence in the England midfield, played a 60m pass that dissected the Jerusalem defense. Yuval Ruppin got on the end of the this and squared for the ever alert Gaby Balulu to score his hat-trick and put England 4-3 up and ultimately the victory. A fantastic game to start the new season.
England player-manager Terry Newman was delighted with the character of the team, saying: “Coming back from 2-0 down after 15 minutes to win, and doing so in style, was superb.” Despite the defeat, Jerusalem manager David Preston was be very pleased with the performance of his team. He said: “It’s hard to see either team losing many games this season if they both continue to play with such commitment and intensity.”

Elsewhere, Jaffa beat Rainbow 9-1.