The Middlesex Premier Cup Final, which was played at Middlesex FA HQ on Wednesday last 26th May, between Kensington & Ealing Borough and St Panteleimon lived up to all the pre-match expectations.
The limited all ticket attendance of 132 was treated to a fiercely fought, fast paced, all action final, from which St Panteleimon emerged 3-1 winners.
St Panteleimon’s progress, since their formation, within the Greek Orthodox community in 2015, has been spectacular. Four championships and three cups later, they are now at Step 5, in the Combined Counties League Premier Division North.
Kensington & Ealing Borough reached this final with victories over Harefield United Reserves (7-2 away) and FC Deportivo Galicia (3-2 home). St Panteleimon have recorded 3 away victories, versus AFC Hayes (2-1), Cricklewood Wanderers (5-1) and Rayners Lane (3-1). The semi-final between Kensington & Ealing Borough and FC Deportivo Galicia was an exhilarating affair, which will be remembered for a long time by those who were fortunate to be present. St Panteleimon’s semi-final against Rayners Lane was a hard fought and frequently explosive contest, which the Saints generally dominated, without turning their superiority into goals.
The Saints had an opportunity to go ahead inside 2 minutes, when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Ahmed Doukhi. However, Noyan Tajbakhsh crashed his kick against the underside of the bar, from where it rebounded down onto the goal-line and away to safety.
Noyan Tajbakhsh hits the bar with an early penalty kick
St Panteleimon created some more scoring opportunities. Kevin Mustali hit a dangerous ball into the Borough box from the right but Noyan Tajbakhsh was unable to connect with it. Then Noyan was set up by Courtney Massey and brought a diving save from keeper, Juan Federico. They eventually scored in the 27th minute, when Ahmed Doukhi finished off a slick movement, involving Javonne Molloy and Courtney Massey.
Ahmed Doukhi puts the Saints 1-0 ahead
Borough hit back and Jabir Laraba shot just wide from a pass by Miguel Lopes Des Matos. Then a Josiah Valerie free kick, from around 25 yards, was pushed around the post by keeper Donald Manaj. Sam Nana Marfo headed the resulting corner kick against the crossbar.
A flying save by Saints' keeper Donald Manaj
In the 35th minute, Borough were reduced to 10 men, after a bad tackle earned Shadrach Williams a second yellow card. They continued to hold their own, however and Donald Manaj was again in action, turning a free kick, taken by Josiah Valerie, over his crossbar.
Borough keeper Juan Federico beats Noyan Tajbakhsh to the ball
Borough’s Mohamed Turay rescued his goalkeeper by recovering possession, after the latter had left his penalty area and lost the ball to Noyan Tajbakhsh.
The first half action ended with the Saints’ defensive wall blocking a free kick by Miguel Lopes Des Matos.
Half time score: Kensington & Ealing Borough 0 St Panteleimon 1
Jabir Laraba was thwarted by a saving tackle following a good team move. However, 2 minutes later, in the 60th minute, Kensington & Chelsea Borough were awarded a penalty for a foul and Jabir sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to level the scores.
Referee Conor Griffin watches an aerial duel
In the 64th minute a skirmish developed in the Saints’ goalmouth, after the keeper had punched out a free kick from the left. A couple of follow up shots hit defender’s bodies and then Saints broke away to retake the lead. The scorer was Kevin Mustali with a cross shot from the right.
Borough's captain Jabir Laraba tests Donald Manaj with a close range header
Borough’s Jabir Laraba headed narrowly over the bar following a run down the right by Mohamed Turay and Saints’ Roberto Katsikas had a shot tipped around the post by Juan Federico. Then Brad Gilmaney hit Borough’s post.
A shot from Brad Gilmaney hits Borough's post
Courtney Massey put Saints 3-1 ahead after 76 minutes, following a superb move involving several players. Play then continued to move from end to end without any further goal-scoring, despite several substitutes being introduced.
Courtney Massey puts Saints 3-1 ahead
Full time score: Kensington & Ealing Borough 1 St Panteleimon 3
Referee Conor Griffin and his assistant referees, Eddie Clifford and Dario Zavagno were all excellent and contributed to a highly entertaining match. Fourth Official, Rob Alderton, controlled proceedings around dug outs very efficiently.
Middlesex FA President, John Davies, chose St Panteleimon’s Kevin Mustali as Player of the Match.
This was the first Middlesex FA Cup final held at Rectory Park under the pandemic regulations and the HQ staff must be congratulated on the success of their arrangements and the smooth operation of the evening’s events.
KENSINGTON AND EALING BOROUGH FC
Juan Federico, Mohamed Turay, Miguel Lopes Des Matos, Shadrach Willisams, Sam Nana Marfo, Adam Hamdi, Josiah Valerie (Bilal Bakali 81 min), Yahta El-Khabouche (Joshua Chetwynd 77 min), Jabir Laraba (capt), Eva Batousol and Mohammed Belamouadden (Jahmal Edwards 80 min).
Unused substitutes: Terence Cariba and Terry Whitman.
Managers: Gilbaut Batousol & Mo Bakali Coach: Ricardo Taylor Physio: Jeff Clement.
ST PANTELEIMON FC
Donald Manaj, Kevin Mustali, Nico Campbell (capt), Roberto Katsikas, Brad Gilmaney, Javonne Molloy, Ben Dunkwu (Marciel Cobianchi 46 min), Courtney Massey, Guilherme Monti, Ahmed Doukhi (Ryan Molloy 89 min) and Noyan Tajbakhsh.
Unused substitutes: Sham Abufalah, Dan Carr and Mishari Al Ashban.
Manager: George Frangeskou Coaches: George Mina, Costas Mina & Michael Frangeskou.
Our official photographer Chris Benn, as ever, has provided some fantastic imagery from the game. If using these photos please give credit.
Chris has selected 10 highlight images which can be found here.
Readers wishing to view the full gallery of images can find these here.
An online programme was preduced for the match and can be found here