STANMORE were applauded off the pitch as they put in a heroic performance at Maple Cross – only to be downed by a wonder strike from the visitors.
The U9s, who lost 5-0 just a few weeks ago at St Peters’ Iver, were keen to level things up and build on last week’s strong performance against Westwood Park.
They did so brilliantly, with a clean sheet in the first half and dominating possession thanks to a blend of calm, clever retention of the ball and incisive forward passes.
Despite winning the xG (Expected Goals) battle comfortably, a wonderful strike from distance was enough for the visitors to take all three points.
The U9s started strongly, with Mehdi Bhimji and captain Muhammad Jawad Tejani putting in some excellent through balls for Muhammad Moosa, who forced the opposition keeper into a couple of sharp saves early on.
The returning Ehsaan Dhanji put in a Martinelli-esque performance on the wing, driving the team up the pitch and engaging in a battle with his defender every time he picked up the ball.
At the back, man-of-the-match Aliabbas Dharas and Hassan Alimohamed showed impressive anticipation and recovery pace to deal with any counter attacks, with Ali Hussain Sumar slotting into centre midfield (for the first time in his young career) and looking like Casemiro.
Stanmore attacked with renewed impetus in the second half towards the North Bank of the Maple Cross arena, with Noah Hussein’s wonderful cross taken down by Moosa, who turned, saw his snap shot saved onto the post before tapping just wide.
It would have taken something special for the Lions to hit back. Unfortunately for the hosts, it did. A wonder strike from the Lions winger gave the goalkeeper no chance and forced SJFC to take stock.
Gaining confidence, the Lions roared forward once more, but were denied by an excellent save from Zaynali Mohamed. Mohammed Haji slotted back into defence and impressed not only with his tackling, but composure on the ball which helped Stanmore regain the momentum.
And then it was like a training game of attack against defence, with the U9s peppering the goal from long and short range.
Birthday boy Tejani was inches from a equaliser late on, but was denied by another top save.
Manager Kumail Jaffer said: “The improvement in this team is marvellous. Not only are we playing wonderful, expansive football, but the scorelines are starting to reflect how we match up with the opposition.
“To quote Mikel Arteta, this project is going to go bang! And when it does, this will be a team feared around the land – or at least the general Amersham area.”
Muhammad Jawad Tejani
Ali Hussain Sumar