OLIM FOOTBALLThe Olim’s runaway league leaders Ra’anana made the trip to the capital to take on in-form Jerusalem who had climbed up to second prior to this game.

Both sides were missing a couple of players, but were nonetheless near full strength for this titanic battle between the leagues two top scoring teams and two of the meanest defences. A win for Ra’anana, and they would have one hand on the league title, even at this early stage.

The game started at a frantic pace, with both sides looking to stamp authority on the game. Despite the high level of football on show, there was only one half chance for Jerusalem’s Mordy Weiler in the first 20 minutes, with both defences giving nothing away.

The breakthrough came for the hosts in the 22nd minute, with a piece of brilliance from Moishe Lewis, after a pass from Weiler. With his head down, Lewis muscled goal wards, and from the edge of the area unleashed an unstoppable shot with the outside of his boot that hit the underside of the bar in the top left corner, before nestling into the back of the net. 1-0 Jerusalem.

This gave Jerusalem the momentum and they controlled the next 15 minutes, with a couple of excellent chances for Zack Lewis and Yehudah Korman, each to be denied by the even better Sapir Marom in the Ra’anana goal. A late challenge by Rafi Shachat on Korman ending another potential run on goal, led to the first booking of the game.

Following this, the pendulum swung Ra’anana’s way, and they almost equalised in the 37th minute, when Alberto ‘Tito’ Telias, Ra’anana’s summer signing from Jaffa, rose highest from a well delivered corner, to header just too high.

Two minutes later, and a great piece of skill by the league’s top scorer Aviad Ben Meir gave him the extra yard into the box, but his final connection was poor and Daniel Boerstra had a very easy save to make.

As the tide turned once more, Jerusalem ended the half the stronger, with two decent chances for Moishe Lewis, only to be thwarted once more by Marom.

At half-time, Moshe Freedman made a tactical change, going three at the back, and moving the impressive Josh Lipman into a five-man midfield, giving more strength to the league leaders, and allowing Chanani Corney a little more space on the wing. Jerusalem responded, by matching the fifth man in the middle to try and negate Ra’anana’s push to get back into the game.

Ra’anana got back onto level terms in the 55th minute, when the ball fell to Ben Meir by the penalty spot, and his shot made its way through the crowded area, taking a slight deflection on its way into the bottom right hand corner. 1-1.

Jerusalem almost hit straight back, only to see Lollu Hibbert’s header saved off the line. A few minutes later, and Marom denied another goal-bound header, this time from Korman.

Aviv Cohen became the second player in the book after hacking down Danny Sigal, and a few minutes later he was lucky not to receive his marching orders for another foul, with the referee deciding to keep the high tempo game flowing, and not show a second yellow.

With 20 minutes left, Jerusalem’s Zack Lewis was brought down by what seemed to be a sure penalty, only for the referee to wave play on. A few minutes later, and with the referee perhaps evening things out, Ra’anana had the ball in the back of the net, only to be called offside in the tightest of calls.

The end to end action game seemed to be heading for a draw, until Jerusalem found yet another gear in the final few minutes. The ever dangerous Moishe Lewis broke into the area and unleashed a ferocious shot, only to be denied once more by world class save by Marom, as he somehow turned the shot round for a corner. Jerusalem peppered the goal with a few more corners, and received a golden opportunity to win the game at the death, as the ball was handled in the area, with the referee having no option but to point to the spot.

Moishe Lewis stepped up, and perhaps with the pressure of a last minute penalty, hit his spot kick wide. A minute later, the referee brought the game to a conclusion in a result that perhaps Ra’anana will be a little more please with, as over the past 2 seasons, the only two sides to walk away from Jerusalem’s home ground with a point, each went on to win silverware come the season end.

Jerusalem’s joint Manager commented, “This game was a real spectacle for the league, which based on tonight’s performance, was between what I believe will be the top two sides come the end of this season, assuming both sides remain injury free. Having been involved in men’s Olim and Maccabi football for over 20 years, I have rarely seen such a high level of play for the full 90 minutes from both sides. In all honesty, neither side had a weak link out there tonight.”

“I thought overall we edged the game, and had we scored the last minute penalty, I don’t think Ra’anana would have complained. But perhaps a draw was a fairer result, as on tonight’s performance, no player really deserved to be on a losing side.”

“It would be wrong to single out any individual player, but the two stand out moments were the finish by Moishe to give us the lead, a great strike from the top drawer, and the saves by Sapir in the last few minutes, to deny us the 3 points at the end.”

“This was a great game, played in a very good and competitive spirit. Moshe Freedman and Avi Wiesenberg have put together a great team that would be worthy champions this year, although we will keep plugging away to try and pip them to the title.”

Jerusalem:
Daniel Boerstra, Danny Sigal, Solomon Emeke Eza, Eyal Toledo, David Preston, Mordy Weiler, Gav Cohen, Yehuda Korman, Zack Lewis. Daniel Cohen, Moishe Lewis.
Subs: Lollu Hibbert, Eli Warner, Gav Krieger

Goal:
Moishe Lewis (22)

Ra’anana:
Sapir Maron, Ronen Goldsmith, Mike Isaacson, Josh Lipman, Rafi Shachat, Chaim Elimelech, Aviv Cohen, Udi Hazan, Chanani Corney, Aviad Ben Meir, Rafi Kanichowsky
Subs: Moshe Freedman, Alberto ‘Tito” Telias, Guv Lebens

Goal:
Aviad Ben Meir (55)

Yellows:
Rafi Shachat (35), Aviv Cohen (67)

Ashdod 0 Inter Tel Aviv 3, by Sam Sank

With both teams going in to this game with six points each it was clearly going to be a close matchup and it started that way right from the off. In a fairly uninspiring first half, neither side was willing to commit too many forward in order to prevent conceding the opening goal. Inter’s greatest threat in the opening 45 minutes, Airton Manuel, was consistently targeted by the resilient Ashdod defence, while at the other end a number of individual errors gave Ashdod some half-chances, the best of which was superbly saved by the outstretched arm of Sam Friedman, who would later earn his first clean sheet of the campaign.

A determined Inter came out of the half-time break firing on all cylinders and were rewarded with a goal just three minutes into the second half. A mazy run by marauding right back Omri Elani saw the ball arrive at Manu Schultz, who curled the ball beyond the reach of the home keeper to break the deadlock.

A cagey half an hour followed with both sides desperately looking to find the second goal of the game, yet it was the Inter defence that held firmest, assisted by the hardworking performances of Ariel Benzaquen and Cedric Membrez. A cross from James Fattal fizzled across the Ashdod penalty area and Schultz was on hand again to grab his and Inter’s second of the night.

With a two- goal cushion, the away side saw out the game with ease and the final result was made to look far more comfortable, following Martin Orson’s low free-kick that found its way into the bottom corner of the goal.

The win is Inter’s third consecutive victory and shows them to be real contenders in this league, in what is their first season together.