Maccabi futsal club ended their first foray into the Asian club futsal scene on a high after two narrow defeats in the AFC Futsal Club Championships Qualifying stage this week.
The Maccabi side knew they were up against the odds in what promised to be a stern test at this classy level. The opponents from Vietnam and China boasted players with international experience, and a professional training schedule. Maccabi showed their qualities, which reflect Australian futsal’s new competitiveness.
Thai Son Nam FC of Vietnam was the team’s first opponents, a team containing 9 Vietnamese national players as well as a Spanish World Cup winning player.
Maccabi fought with passion, pride and focus to hold the home team scoreless into the half time interval. With a vocal home crowd cheering the Vietnamese teams every move Maccabi slowly swung the game in their favour and were unlucky to not steal the game’s opening goal through a difficult chance that fell to Jordan Mundell.
As an unlikely draw beckoned, Maccabi hearts were crushed as an unfortunate deflection gave the home side an easy tap in goal and a 1-0 lead. They would hold for the final minutes to take the game. The mood in the camp was one of deflation mixed with admiration as the team came to the realization of the achievement, while anguishing at a result that could have been.
Backing up for their second game in two nights, Maccabi knew only a win would do, in order to secure qualification into the next stage. Guangzhou Baiushan FC was the next test. The Chinese team is coming off a 36 game professional domestic league and fielding no less than 10 Chinese and 2 Brazilian internationals.
Maccabi started slowly and looked somewhat overawed by the occasion as they went behind 2-0 in quick fashion. Daniel Fulton brought the team back into the match with a well taken goal after smart lead up play down the sideline.
As soon as the side smelt a scent of a fight back, the Chinese side again went two in front and held that lead into the half time interval. Belief was the order of the second half as Maccabi felt they had the tools to unlock the disciplined Guangzhou defense. With this new found motivation Maccabi struck the all important first blow after the break.
Jarrod Basger showed immaculate class as he majestically weaved past two defenders and powered a rocket on his weaker left foot into the back of the net. However no sooner had Maccabi got back in the game when they again found themselves down by a two goal margin as the Chinese team finished off a well worked move. The margin was contained as only moments later Maccabi’s Brazilian wonder child Adriano De Melo latched onto a quick kick in to sneak a goal and bring the margin back to one. The game had truly swung. Maccabi was now defending with confidence, and was containing the Chinese teams every move. A plethora of chances began to flow.
However it was not to be as the Maccabi side again found themselves on the wrong side of a 4-3 score line.
What started off as a week revolving around the mantra of “containment“and “control”, Maccabi truly defied the odds.
The team camaraderie was the vital cog in what turned out to be a campaign that if played on another day may have resulted in a semi final appearance.
For a team of amateurs the team indeed took it to two professional squads that on face value would have thought a futsal clinic would be on the cards. The spirit, passion and zeal demonstrated was truly a credit to the Australian sporting community at large.