Jerusalem, last season's champion, started off the new Olim League season this past weekend with a hard fought 6-4 away win against a much improved Modi'in side. England joined Jerusalem in the winner's circle with a 3-1 victory over Ashdod while Aviv City and newcomer FC Anglia fought to a 2-2 draw.
The opening 15 minutes in Modi'in were very evenly matched with neither side posing any great threat. The deadlock was broken on 19 minutes, when Calev Ben-Dor was quickest to dispatch a low cross to drill the ball into the back of the net. A minute later and Jerusalem found itself up 2-0 thanks to a well taken strike from newcomer Akiva Zneimer. With the fans expecting a deluge of goals from the champions, it was the home side that turned the tie on its head in a 13-minute period, where they controlled possession and converted all four of their chances on goal.
Amichai pulled one back on 32 minutes, followed by Matan Kroizer equalizing in the 38th minute. Two minutes later, Amichai scored his second and Modi'in's third with a wonder strike from about 25 meters (an early contender for goal of the season ), and on the stroke of half-time, Tai Kovler put Modi'in 4-2 up with another pile driver from outside the box to leave the defending champions stunned into silence at the break.
At half-time, Jerusalem regrouped, and after making a couple of tactical changes, slowly got to grips with the game, ultimately dominating the second half.
In the 53rd minute, a perfectly weighted free kick from Jason Lurie picked out Lollu Hibbert, who dispatched the ball past Daniel Rose in Modi'in goal. After Misa Guarneros hit the bar, Jerusalem finally got back on level terms on the hour, with Avi Korman (also making his debut ) driving in the equalizer from a corner.
Two minutes later, and Jerusalem were back in front, with a superbly executed free kick from Misa finding the top left hand corner.
The next 20 minutes was all Jerusalem. With the clock ticking down, Modi'in threatened a late equalizer with a couple of half chances from a corner, but it was Zneimer who put the icing on his debut by claiming his second and Jerusalem's sixth goal with the last kick off the game.
On Sunday, last year's runner-up England got its season underway versus an Ashdod side boasting a new-look team with manager Yoel Ohnona seeming to put faith in the kids with many youngsters taking the field for Ashdod.
England came out of the blocks fast and tested the Ashdod keeper with a few good crosses and long shots, with David Flo going close twice and rattling the bar from a free kick, and Roy Bihi also getting in behind the Ashdod back four but failing to beat the keeper.
Fifteen minutes in and the pressure told when Bihi stole the ball and laid it off to Flo, who from 20 yards left footed a belter into the corner, making it a dream debut for the Nigerian. The kids from Ashdod didn't let their heads drop and tried to play some good football, and on the break a long ball managed to find a hole in the England defense and Ashdod was able to slide the ball home with its first real attack.
England was still playing its style of soccer with Motti Colman and Tal Stern both trying to thread balls through to Bihi and Yoni Sidi, but they just lacked an inch or two. On the half hour mark Colman found himself in space after a flowing move and held the ball perfectly as he waited for Yuval Rupin's perfect run and laid it through. All that was left was for Rupin to curl it in from 10 yards to give England the lead at half time.
The second half was dominated by the home team with chances being squandered by Sidi, Rupin, Bihi and Flo, and a goal being disqualified. But then a moment of pure class came to pass as Rupin, who now turned provider, fed a perfect ball through to Colman, who ran through and beat Ashdod defenders several times on his way. He then placed a perfect shot into the corner to make it 3-1 to England.
After the match, England manager Sidi said, "Today we were great from top to bottom. We chased everything down and played some great football. It is the same core as last season and having Josh Hantman back from injury is like having a new star signing. His performance today was one of the best I have seen in my 10 years here. He wears his heart on his sleeve and leads by example. It's just the start - we have a long way to go but are very happy with how we looked tonight."
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