Kanga Cup – Champions Edition
Congratulations to the boys and all involved after a thoroughly deserved win this morning. Thank you to Rene and Darren Katz for such great organisation, to Mark and Peter (not forgetting Assistant Dean Katz) for their coaching and mentoring in preparing the boys so well for this week. Also thank you to all the parents and particularly the brothers and sisters who spent their holiday week watching football. Finally, a big thank you to my umbrella assistant this morning, the ever patient Maya who made sure my notes didn’t dissolve in the rain.
Hakoah 3 (A Robertson 2, M Shapiro) vs Keilor Park Eagles 1
Something was amiss in the kingdom of Kanga this week. We’d seen plenty of goals, parsimonious defences, fantastic free kicks, the Hakoah victory song (with the aid of a wheelie bin) ringing out loud over Canberran football fields. So what was missing? Rain. And lots of it. The weather had been glorious all week, brilliant blue skies and warming winter sunshine providing a backdrop to some wonderful football. But it’s not Kanga without driving rain, a biting wind and dank, sodden pitches. Unfortunately, this tournament’s script had finals day as the day when the heavens opened and all bar those of Scottish extraction (and maybe A Shapiro) thought twice about getting out from under the doona covers.
Still, this was finals day and no-one was going to deny our boys a chance at glory. Despite the constant rainfall, the pitch at Southwell was in terrific condition, the wet surface causing the ball to zip off the turf but the bounce of the ball ran true. The teams lined up, the size differential between the two squads marked. Not that our boys cared, they like playing tall teams, they make more noise when they fall.
The boys settled into a rhythm early, spreading the ball wide across the pitch, trying to pull the defence out of shape. Ethan De Melo picked up where he left off in the semi-final, twisting and turning down the left flank and winning a corner. Matty Shapiro was also lively, his pace always a threat. Keilor Park withstood the early pressure and in the ninth minute and took a shot which didn’t trouble the returning Noah Feilich.
Two minutes later and Hakoah were on their way. More intelligent possession from Adam Strasser in the middle of the park as he slowed the tempo, looking for the right ball. He knocked it to Alexander Robertson, who with a change of pace and a jinking run strode into the penalty area. He shaped to shoot, but instead lifted the ball to Ethan De Melo on the left. Ethan kept the play alive, a short flat ball across the face of the goal which was stabbed home by Matty Shapiro. 1-0 Hakoah.
After fifteen minutes Hakoah had another great opportunity, Ollie Jones pumping a free kick from the left flank into the area. The ball fell to Jared Kleviansky, who instinctively struck the ball hard and high at the goal. The Keilor keeper made a great reaction save, the ball deflecting past the post for a corner.
Hakoah were now totally in control of the match. Considering the continual rain and the physicality of the opponent, the level of execution and control displayed by the boys was hugely impressive. Time and time again a blue wave came forward, the ball seemingly on a string. There were some lovely interchanges and one touch passing and Keilor couldn’t keep up. After 18 minutes another end to end move saw Zac Pillemer break into the box but his left foot shot was just off target. Two minutes later and Alexander had one thing on his mind as he took a long range shot that was agonisingly close.
That didn’t seem to worry the mercurial number 10, in the twenty third minute he put the team 2-0 up with a fantastic move. Once again Ethan De Melo was at the heart of the action, linking with Alexander just inside the Keilor half. Alexander ran onto the ball, passed crisply to the waiting Zac Sapsford at the top of the penalty area. Zac passed first time back to Alexander who put his foot through the ball, his clinical shot flashing into the net. Arguably the goal of the week and what a perfect time to conjure up such a strike.
Two minutes before half time and Alexander was at it again, another driving run into the box but the defence held tight, denying him a chance to shoot. Keilor cleared long from the resulting corner, their preferred tactic of knocking it to the tall timber up front. Though the Keilor number 10 was a handful to deal with (dare we say a good touch for a big boy?), on this occasion he was well marshalled by Ryan Collins and Ben Katz doing the hard yards in midfield.
Half time and Hakoah held a thoroughly deserved 2-0 lead.
Coach Robertson kept the boys walking during the half time break, trying to keep the muscles warm and the focus on the game and not the rain. Understandably, however, the tempo dropped a little early on in the half, before Alexander had a great chance to seal the game in the 39th minute. Just on the six yard line he went for power over precision, and the Keilor keeper made another excellent stop. Play went straight down the other end, where Keilor won a free kick. A fine strike from the Keilor number 16, his shot probably scraping Noah’s outstretched fingers but the ball nestled in the net to make the game a contest again. 2-1 to Hakoah, would they rue their spurned chances?
In short, no. Not if Alexander had anything to do with it. Four minutes later, another 1-2 with the ever willing Zac Sapsford, another mazy dribble through the penalty area. This time finesse won over brute force, a pass into the far corner making it 3-1 to Hakoah.
Although the boys had retained their two goal cushion, Keilor kept coming at them. With such a size disparity, the defence had to use their guile and anticipation to keep their opponents from pressing into the final third and looking to take advantage of their height through crosses or set plays. Many times Ryan and centre back partner Ollie Jones made crucial interceptions, breaking up the play and allowing Hakoah to reset. Many time the full backs Zac Pillemer and Ethan Harris (who needed a step ladder to see eye to eye with his winger) intelligently shielded their opponent, allowing their teammates to fall back and crowd Keilor. Tim Scott and Ben Katz also showed their dogged determination in keeping Keilor at bay. The bedrock that allows the creative players the time and space to do what they do best.
Up front the selfless Jared and Zac ran themselves into the ground, Jared coming close again with a header that looped over the bar after a deflection from a free kick. Adam Strasser showed his intelligence and composure on the ball, making it so hard for Keilor to contest possession. Robbie Fraser then added a touch of class to the proceedings, a cheeky back heel into the net disallowed after Zac Pillemer had made a great run into the penalty area but unfortunately strayed offside at the crucial moment.
The hallmark of a good goalie is the ability to keep concentration while your teammates lay siege to the other goal. After once again not having had a great deal to do, Noah proved his worth with some excellent sweeping, confidently clearing from the onrushing forward with only three minutes left.
Hakoah fashioned a final chance with two minutes to go, Tim Scott with an excellent free kick from deep in our half, releasing Zac Sapsford. How Zac still had the energy to chase down the ball is anyone’s guess, dribbling into the area but the Keilor keeper again made a good save.
Ultimately, the inevitable result was a win to Hakoah. 3-1 on the day and the boys can be extremely proud of their efforts and performances over the week. As Coach Mark Robertson said, “they’re a really good group of boys, they are so easy to coach because they want to learn and they listen.” They can also play a bit too.