Monday, January 22, 2018

Hapoel Mevasseret Zion – Hapoel Lod (09-01-2017)

It is a Monday afternoon and I am taking a bus from the ICC station in Jerusalem to Ha’rel Interchange, at the suburb of Mevasseret Zion, where I follow some kids on a shortcut, which, by sheer chance, brings me to the pitch, in the middle of nowhere. The two teams are already warming up. It is gorgeous weather and I can even sit in a polo shirt in the sun.

The game is in the Liga Gemel (Fifth Division) Central Division, so more at the level of friends’ teams. There are some 20 spectators, seemingly all friends of players, including 3 away supporters (in one car). The game is played on a small pitch surrounded by a fence; it feels like a cage. The grass is of poor quality, in part because it stormed a few days earlier. The pitch is close to a construction side, so trucks and bulldozers drive on and off.

The players are not that young, more late 20s and early 30s, and several are a bit overweight and don’t look very athletic. Consequently, the pace is quite low and passing not very precise – although they often have enough space to compensate for their less-then-perfect technique.

In the 4th minute Mevasseret Zion has the first shot, but it goes about 10 meters wide. Three minutes later Lod has a good chance but the goalkeeper saves and the rebound is shot straight at him, so he saves it again. In the 20th minute the visitors have a corner and the rebound is shot from top of the box but forces a great save by the goalie. In the 25th minute Lod gets a penalty after a foul in the box. The player puts it cool in the right corner: 1-0.

In the 30th minute the hosts have a rare counter and the striker goes alone at the goal and places it from 10 meter in the far corner: 1-1.  Four minutes later a (too) long dribble by a Lod midfielder, around 4 people, leads to a light foul in the box, but no penalty. A few minutes later the visitors shoot from 20 meters at the crossbar. The next minute a Lod shot, from 12 meters, is deflected just in front of goal, hits the post, and ricochets in the hands of the goalie.

In the 42nd minute the hosts again counter attack. It seemed offside to me, but the striker is allowed on, comes alone in front of the goalkeeper, who grabs the ball from his feet as he tries to get around him. In the last minute of the first half  a corner by Lod is cleared by the same home defender by miskicking the ball three times in a row. Half-time score: 1-1.

The first ten minutes of the second half see a series of fouls, which are not punished, until he finally whistles after a particularly nasty one by the hosts and draws his first yellow card. Little happens in the next minutes, except for a shots by Lod that goes wide, until in the 64th minute Lod has a good cross and a Mevasseret Zion defender slides it high in his own goal: 1-2.

The rest of the game remains fairly slow, with some chances and half chances at both sides, but not change in the score. While I leave about 10 minutes before the end, to catch my bus back to Jerusalem (for which I will have to wait 20 minutes anyway), I think it remained 1-2 for Lod.

Clearly, Israeli Fifth Division is not where it’s at – it’s the level where I played at 25-30. But, the weather was nice and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I actually had a pretty good time.

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