England FC continued their great pre-season form with another win, this time at Olim League new boys Ashdod Friends. Despite missing several leading players, England produced another impressive, yet perhaps slightly wasteful, display en route to a 3-1 triumph.
Ashdod came into the game wanting to make an impact in their first minutes in the league, and that showed in their start that was full of youthful exuberance.
England struck first, however. Right-back Yonni Shelmerdine produced a great diagonal ball from just inside the opposition’s half that was met by master-header Roy Bihi-Zenou, who guided the ball into the bottom corner. Ashdod was quick to react and dominated possession, especially in the center of the park, until the end of the half. Their dominance paid dividends and after a long ball caught the England center-backs sleeping, Ashdod equalized. England missed two great chances toward the end of the half and the teams went in at 1:1.
A stern talking to from Coach Motti Colman must have worked, because England came out far more focused and soon made amends for their lack of concentration after taking the lead. A vast array of chances came their way, but nothing seemed to be going in. With both teams looking increasingly nervous and fouls stopping the game every few minutes, England finally broke the deadlock when a through-ball from man-of-the-match Bihi-Zenou to Tal Stern resulted in a cross that went right across goal. The ball was turned back in by new boy Eli Israeli and it fell to Carlos Mazzini, who slid in to score the winner.
England started to feel the pressure toward the end of the game and Ashdod were looking like they might equalize, but a great run and pull back from debutant Mazzini saw Roy Ben Zihou double his tally and take England into an unassailable lead.
Champs taken down
In the second game of the Olim League soccer season, last season’s champion Ra’anana travelled to Tel Aviv to take on Inter, last year’s newcomer, which upset the favored visitor 5-2.
Inter had painfully lost at home to bitter rivals England last weekend and were ready to vent their anger out on Ra’anana, while also being boosted by the return of captain Sam Sank at the back.
The hosts started strong from the offset following a fiery team talk from manager Jerome Katz, and were ahead within 10 minutes thanks to cultured midfielder Cedric Membrez. The lead was soon doubled after one of the best moves of the game, as Dave Rajber released Jaime Kauffman down the left, who put a sizzling ball across the box for Sam Silverberg to pummel home.
Ra’anana were clearly in shock from their opponents’ blitzkrieg soccer and were struggling to overly threaten Sam Friedman in the Inter goal. Despite Josh Lipman’s best efforts at marshalling the Ra’anana back line, Inter made it three on the half-hour mark, Membrez seeing a long-range shot deflected in off the post after good work from Silverberg down the right.
Inter were not satisfied with just three and got one more before the break. Membrez completed his hat trick from the penalty spot, awarded following a fine run from James Fattal.
The away side rallied at half-time and proved far more of a threat after the break, but the Inter defense stood firm during the opening barrage. In fact, it was the hosts who again found the net, with man-of-the-match Membrez scoring a glorious effort following the move of the game after a one-two with Silverberg.
Five goals to the good and you couldn’t have blamed Inter for thinking the game was over, but to Ra’anana’s credit they didn’t give in and saw their efforts rewarded with a close-range finish from Ronen Goldsmith after beating the offside trap.
The game slowed down as it drew to a close, but there was enough time for the visitors to get the game’s last goal, as Tito converted the second spot kick of the evening. The result was perhaps a wake-up call for the reigning champions that to defend the title will be easier said than done, while Inter will be aspiring to title aspirations themselves following this significant victory.
Elsewhere, Modi’in and Jerusalem drew 2-2.