Hakoah Staff - November 15, 2012
TEANECK, N.J. – Two newly promoted sides vying for first place faced off on Sunday, November 11 at University Stadium, but it was the referee who garnered much of the attention. Ultimately, the disputed calls and unlucky breaks evened out, and the match ended deadlocked at 3-3, but both teams left the field feeling they might have taken all three.
Fittingly, after a subdued start to the match, the first real chance resulted from a controversial decision, as the referee awarded a free kick on the edge of Hakoah's area in the 10th minute after a phantom foul. Hungaria's midfield dynamo Torok lined up the kick and just missed the target with his attempt, banging it off the crossbar and out for a goal kick. A whistle also figured in Hakoah's response two minutes later. Michel Asayag slotted the ball past the goalkeeper at the other end but has his effort ruled out for offside.
Real misfortune struck for Hakoah in the 28th minute, when Hungaria's #24 struck a speculative low shot from distance that caromed off of Hakoah's Mathieu Gouverneur's outstretched leg and into the goal to give the visitors the lead. The goal put an already tense Hakoah team under pressure, and the sky blues' mounting frustration was evident in the players' demeanor on the field. The low point came in the 37th minute, when a pesky Hungaria attacker fought his way past Mike Cabal to reach the endline and square the ball to the onrushing Torok, who was unaccounted for after making a late run through the box. Torok made no mistake with it, striking the ball first time into the top corner to give Hungaria a 2-0 advantage.
Each of the previous two confrontations between Hakoah and Hungaria had featured significant swings in momentum, and memories of the rapid collapse Hakoah experienced in last season's home leg were certainly awakened by Hungaria's two goal flurry. Happily for Hakoah, midfielder Phil Robinson picked the right moment to assert his leadership and help right what appeared to be a sinking ship. Robinson, who had moved into the center of the midfield from the left side after Hakoah struggled to maintain possession and complete passes in the early going, made a precise pass ahead to Sulemana-Baba. Sulemana-Baba's poise on the ball gave his strike partner Asayag time to race to the far post and tap the ball in to bring Hakoah back into the game.
With emotions still running high, Hakoah's halftime team talked focused more on the mental side of the game than any major tactical adjustments, but the sky blues did resolve to transition more rapidly into counterattacks using a more direct approach. That strategy paid quick dividends, as Sulemana-Baba and Asyag were able to play a one-two combination that sent Hakoah's leading scorer in to grab a second goal for the home team in the 53rd. The goal, however, only trimmed the deficit to 3-2 as Hungaria had converted a penalty kick awarded shortly after halftime when Gouverneur brought down an opposing attacker after their feet became entangled. Torok's low shot just got underneath Carlos Canizales, who had guessed correctly but failed to make the stop.
Hakoah's second goal did seem to finally settle the home team, and with exception of a few set piece opportunities, Hakoah had most of the scoring chances. The always dangerous Sulemana-Baba had one of the best of those when Robinson played a perfectly weighted ball out of the back that Sulemana-Baba did well to control without breaking stride. He found a few yards of space, wound up, and blasted a ball toward the upper ninety that just spun wide. A breakthrough came in the 76th minute after the referee ruled that Hungaria's imposing keeper had fouled Sulemana-Baba inside the area. The decision triggered howls of protest from Hungaria and led to a long stoppage as the referee struggled to regain control of the match. After order was restored, Sulemana-Baba calmly deposited the ball in the back of the net to equalize.
Both sides came close to grabbing winners in the waning moments, with the best of the chances coming in the 90th minute when Canizales dove to his left to push aside a dangerous free kick that Torok managed to swing around Hakoah's wall. Five minutes of added time to make up for earlier disruptions did not suffice to determine a winner.
WH Gouverneur (og) 28th
WH Torok (unknown) 37th
SCH Asayag (Sulemana-Baba) 40th
WH Torok (pk) 48th
SCH Sulemana-Baba (Asayag) 53rd
SCH Sulemana-Baba (pk) 76th
SCH Brown (yellow, reckless tackle) 64th
WH #24 (red, dissent) 90th+