A seesaw battle between two newly promoted sides ended with Hakoah on top at University Stadium on Sunday. Waldwick struck first, exploiting space on the flanks and attacking in numbers. After the ball was cut back to the middle, Waldwick's Mike Capone did well to slot the ball past the onrushing Alex Nazarov to give the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
Hakoah responded well, as both Saeed Sulemana-Baba and Jonah Silk forced good saves from the Waldwick goalkeeper in quick succession. The equalizer came soon after, as Michel Asayag finished a beautiful move. Silk's booming cross to switch the point of attack found Omry Lifschitz on the opposite flank. Lifschitz slipped past his marker, leaped, met the ball in the air and poked it forward into Asayag's path. The striker coolly swept the ball into the far corner and tied the match.
Asayag had two more opportunities as Hakoah continued to have the better of play and generate the majority of the chances, but a little luck and some strong goalkeeping kept the game even. In the 42nd minute, Asayag's left foot rocket struck the crossbar and bounced down on the wrong side of the goalline. Seconds before halftime, Sulemana-Baba sent Asayag in alone on the Waldwick goalkeeper, but the keeper did well did come out and deny him.
Both teams came out of the halftime break a little sluggish as the cool and wet conditions caused muscles to tighten, and sloppy play by Hakoah in its own half went unpunished as Hakoah goalkeeper Carlos Canizales and defender Mathieu Gouverneur rose to the occasion. Their defensive play bought enough time for Hakoah to put together another impressive scoring sequence.
In the 63rd minute, Phil Robinson drifted out to the right flank and whipped a dangerous cross into the box. Asayag came across the box, drawing defensive attention and allowing the ball to bounce onto Sulemana-Baba's lethal right foot. Sulemana-Baba made no mistake, powering it past the outstretched arms of the keeper to give Hakoah its first lead.
The sky blues' excitement was short-lived, however, as they failed to close down Waldwick captain Taylor Webber on a throw-in in the Hakoah half. Given time and space to settle the ball, Webber picked a corner and drove a low shot past the diving Canizales to even the game at two goals apiece with more than twenty minutes to play.
Hakoah's ability to move the ball through the center of the field improved in the second half with the insertion of Harel Nahar, and an attack through the middle of the field proved decisive. In the 71st minute, the ball was played forward to Asayag, who slid the ball to Sulemana-Baba, who spun past one defender and then found himself face to face with another. The defender made the mistake of giving ground, creating enough space for Hakoah's leading scorer to rip a hard toward the far post. The ball nestled into the corner of the net, restoring Hakoah's advantage and ultimately proving the game winner.