TEANECK, N.J. – Hakoah continued its preseason preparation with a convincing 4-0 win over Masis F.C. on Sunday morning.
Masis, of the Garden State Soccer League's Semipro Division, started well, utilizing speedy forwards and wingers in the early going to stretch a Hakoah backline that was missing its mainstay, Mathieu Gouverneur. Ofir Singal filled in ably for Gouverneur, and poised performances by Niv Nahar, Mike Cabal and Eyal Yechezkell limited the goalscoring opportunities for the orange clad Masis team.
Though they started on the back foot, the sky blues struck first, as Michel Asayag marked his return to the lineup with an impressive left-footed blast that beat the Masis goalkeeper in the 11th minute. That goal against the run of play seemed to energize Hakoah and the team began to take control of the game.
A chance to double the lead went wasted in the 28th minute after German Dubovis was pushed down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Harel Nahar stepped up to take the penalty and his low shot was saved by the Masis keeper. The rebound came right to Nahar's feet, who attempted to force the keeper to over commit and his follow-up attempt was saved. Moments later, Dubovis continued his strong showing with a floated cross that found Asayag with his back to goal at the edge of the area. The mercurial striker's dazzling bicycle kick attempt flew wide of the goal.
Asayag nearly produced another goal after Sjur Gundersen broke into the Masis area with the ball at his feet and had a shot attempt deflect away toward the striker. Asayag coolly collected ball and rounded his marker, forcing a kick save from the keeper. The rebound found its way to Jonah Silk but his shot was cleared out for a corner.
Hakoah looked to have increased the advantage just before halftime, as Harel Nahar took a free kick and put it onto the head of Saeed Sulemana-Baba who rose high to head it over the outstretched hand of the Masis goalkeeper. However, the referee had spotted an infraction, and waved off the goal, leaving the halftime score 1-0 in favor of Hakoah.
Hakoah manager Dov Glickman opted to leave the backline in tact for the second half and made changes only to the midfield, inserting Lennox Brown, Casey Mitton and Phil Robinson in place of Gundersen, Harel Nahar and Dubovis at the break. The team did not miss a beat, and in the 49th minute Asayag tallied his second of the game, heading home a bouncing ball after being played onside by a Masis defender who had the ball carom off him and into Asayag's path.
"That was mental!" exclaimed Silk, to the amusement of the Hakoah bench.
The second goal seemed to deflate Masis and Hakoah began to attack in waves. In the 54th minute, Robinson beat his defender to the endline nicely and cut it back across the goal. Asayag leaped high but put his header high and wide.
It took until the 78th minute for Hakoah to put the game out of reach as Sulemana-Baba ran at the tired Masis backline, and beat the keeper for a 3-0 lead. The final score came just minutes before the final whistle as Singal controlled a ball in the Hakoah half and hit Dov Glickman in stride with a well-placed pass. Glickman settled the ball and slipped it to Sulemana-Baba who took it the rest of the way himself before slotting it in minutes before the final whistle.
Goalkeepers Aleksey Nazarov (first half) and Freddy (second half) combined for the Hakoah clean sheet.
Hakoah returns to league action on Sunday, March 25, 2012 with a round 1 make-up match against Real Wyckoff at University Stadium at 9AM.
SCH -- Asayag (H. Nahar) 11
SCH -- Asayag (unassisted) 49
SCH -- Sulemana-Baba (Brown) 78
SCH -- Sulemana-Baba (D. Glickman) 86
SCH -- Brown (caution; Dissent)
Time of Game: 83 minutes
Weather: Cloudy and 45 degrees