Maccabi Tel Aviv's handball team made history when it defeated Maribor Branik 31-29 at home, advancing to the semifinals of the European Challenge Cup. Combined with Saturday night's 29-28 loss its Slovenian opponent - also at home, Maccabi squeaked into the semis, a first for Israeli teams in European handball competition.

"It's my greatest accomplishment as a coach, but as someone whose blood runs yellow I believed it was possible," said Maccabi coach Avi Rash after the game.

While Rav grew up in the Maccabi Tel Aviv system, he spent a good part of his pro career with ASA Tel Aviv before deciding to return a few years ago to the team of his youth, which was struggling midtable.

Itzik Halifi, the main acquisition this summer, played an important role in last night's win along with Novac Boskovic, the team's Serbian standout who scored 13 goals, and Tal Belcher, whose two goals gave Maccabi the momentum going into the break with a 14-10 lead.

"It's a historic moment. We played against a great club and won," said Boskovic. "They came here arrogant, and we showed that we should never be counted out," added Rash.

Maccabi's opponent in the semifinals, set for late April, is not yet set.