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Ealing pushed all the way, but hold on to extend lead at top

20 Jan 2017

League match – 19 January 2017

Ealing Independent College 2-1 Albemarle College

Team: Danial; Jamie; Lucas, Egli ; Kai (Zak N), Hamza, Georges; Isaga

Goals: Georges, Isaga

The top of the table clash between these two perennial rivals promised much, and delivered a riveting end-to-end match which saw Ealing increase their advantage at the summit of the ICPL table. Ealing knew they would have to be at their very best, and despite Albemarle starting the match one player light due to a late arrival, they did not hold back, setting a tremendous pace, and an extremely high standard with it, from the off. Passing was sharp and incisive and the whites were able to create a number of openings without taking the lead. Hamza hit a couple of shots from distance which brought the Albemarle stopper into action. The series of corners which the champions won couldn’t end their search for a goal either.

It was just a matter of time however before Ealing got their noses in front. A swift break following a Albemarle corner saw Isaga surge forward. He bounded past a challenge before flicking it wide to Hamza. The whites’ captain returned the ball to Isaga, who nudged it on to Georges. The top scorer steadied himself before dispatching a clinical finish into the corner to give his side the lead. Confidence coursed through the Ealing veins, even as Albemarle were restored to 8 men. Their ‘keeper made a tremendous save to tip over the bar before another devastating Ealing breakaway, involving four of the team, found it’s way to Isaga. A sharp turn by the striker gave him enough space to rocket a devastating shot into the corner. Ealing appeared to be on easy street, but Albemarle slowly started to get a foothold in the match. The whites started to force things as the half closed. Egli, who had been tremendous in marshalling the defence, hit some overambitious long balls. One sailed out of play as the referee blew for the break, but this had been Ealing’s best half of the season so far.

In the knowledge that a third goal would likely kill off the game, the champions, through some excellent link-up play, fashioned a half chance for Hamza, before repeating the trick to give Georges a clear opening. Caught off balance, he couldn’t convert. Would this prove costly for the league leaders? It quickly seemed like it would. Albemarle won themselves a corner which Ealing struggled to clear. Isaga’s poor clearance was seized upon by the ever-impressive number 7. He turned and whipped a vicious drive into the corner. Danial had little chance to set himself, let alone stop the shot. Game well and truly on.

Albemarle were reinvigorated. It took the champions a few minutes to clear their heads. They had to fight to wrestle the initiative back. Egli, Jamie and Lucas spearheaded this in a superb rearguard effort. Egli walked a tightrope with some niggly fouls, but stood firm alongside his defensive partners. Kai, who had not enjoyed his best game, picking up an early booking and struggling to make an impact throughout, made way for Zak N. The swift-heeled winger bravely raced past a challenge before being chopped down high by an opposing defender. The resulting free kick by Hamza hit the wall, with Egli’s follow up deflecting wide. The captain then intercepted a stray pass from the opposition defence before snatching a shot wide. Albemarle were beginning to get frustrated as Ealing ran the clock down. They tried their best but could not find the opening required as Lucas, Jamie and Egli again and again slammed the door in their faces. A strangled appeal for a final chance to pressure the whites through a corner was denied by the referee.

As he blew for full time, Ealing knew that they had taken a massive step towards retaining their title. With two games to go, they now have a ten point lead, and though the other title contenders have games in hand, Ealing is in an enviable position.

Man of the match – Tremendous performances across the side, but Jamie was always on hand to make solid interventions whenever Ealing found themselves under pressure.

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