The top-of-the table clash between Ra’anana and England FC wasn’t as close as most expected, with host Ra’anana pulling away in the second half for a 5-2 triumph.
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Elsewhere, Inter Tel Aviv beat Jaffa 4-2 for its second consecutive victory, while Jerusalem trounced Rainball Tel Aviv 11-1 and visiting Ashdod upended host Modi’in 3-1.
Ra’anana started strongly against England FC, but on a soaked pitch let an early goal slip. Ra’anana dominated early possession and seemed to have the game under control, but a hopeful cross slipped out of the hands of Ra’anana keeper Daniel Bergman and Yishai Last pounced to give England an early shock lead.
Ra’anana’s players wouldn’t let their heads drop, though, and quickly regained their rhythm, with the upfront duo of Gabi Kanikofsky and the league’s leading goalscorer, Aviad Ben Meir, causing tremendous problems for the England FC defense all night.
After 15 minutes, Hannai Corney broke free down the left wing and delivered a delightful ball over to Ben Meir. Not seeing a clear sight of goal, he controlled the ball and crossed it over instead to Chaim Elimicech, who slotted home a deserved equalizer.
England was clearly rattled and struggling to keep hold of the Ra’anana front two, as the home side enjoyed the momentum. Ra’anana capitalized again with Corney swinging in a stunning cross from the left wing for Kanikofsky to fire home.
With space opening up in the midfield as the game inched toward halftime, the ball fell to England’s Yuval Ruppin.
With time and space to pick his spot, he rifled the ball into the top right corner from fully 35 yards.
It took a moment of sheer determination and brilliance to take Ra’anana back into the lead. It made a few substitutions to rest tired legs before the end of the first half, and the fresh legs of Ze’ev Landsman meant even greater pressure was exerted on England’s defense. When Landsman forced an error and charged forward, he found Kanikofsky, who sidestepped his marker before taking his opportunity to make it 3-1, just before the break.
In the second half, Ra’anana’s new-found confidence and maturity began to show. It controlled the game and upped the tempo as and when it suited its needs. Man of the match Kanikofsky found space around the 60-minute mark. He picked the ball up around 50 yards out and, moving swiftly, eventually found the right angle to claim his deserved hat-trick.
The scoring was wrapped up in the final minutes as Hillel Bloch found Landsman, this time on the right side. With a two-on-two offense versus defense, he selflessly laid it back to Aviad, who claimed his 10th goal of the campaign.
“I am pleased we played to our potential today and the team has jelled quickly,” said Ra’anana joint manager Avi Wiesenberg.
“I think it’s too early to be talking about a title, but there is a real belief in this team,” he said. “We have finally started to mature, and the addition of a few new signings, combined with young talent, has given us a much stronger backbone. Our experience has grown, allowing us to take the game to opponents.”
Inter Tel Aviv 4, Jaffa 2
Inter Tel Aviv earned its second consecutive win in the Olim League with a 4-2 triumph over Jaffa last Saturday night.
The game started cagily as both teams found it difficult to find any sort of rhythm. However, Jaffa broke the deadlock with a well-worked goal in the 25th minute, an excellent one-two allowing Josh the chance to find the back of the net with a left-footed shot.
The second half started with Inter dominating play. The equalizer came soon after, Yossi Milhem converting a perfect right-footed free kick from 20 yards out that left the Jaffa keeper with little chance. Inter later took the lead as Mike Langer connected sweetly with Omri Elani’s cross.
Jaffa equalized a few minutes later as Inter struggled to deal with a corner kick. However, Inter started to take control of the game thereafter. Langer doubled his tally for the night with an unstoppable header, which came from Ofir Djerbi’s pinpoint cross.
Inter closed out the match in convincing fashion, with David Schumann making it 4-2. A through ball from Langer saw Schumann win the race for the ball and neatly chip it over the keeper’s head.
Jerusalem 11, Rainball Tel Aviv 1
With the first storms of winter battering much of Israel, the weather held off long enough for Jerusalem to move up to second in the table, after running out very comfortable 11-1 winners against basement side Rainball Tel Aviv.
Solomon Emeke Eza hit a hat-trick (in the 46th, 55th and 72nd minutes, the latter a penalty) for Jerusalem, while Zack Lewis (32, 50) and Dan Cohen (60, 85) each scored a brace. Akiva Zneimer (54), David Preston (74), Mordy Weiler (76) and Moishe Lewis (83) accounted for Jerusalem’s other goals in the one-sided rout.