Handball / Final series / Hapoel Rishon forces decisive fifth game
The series now swings back to Maccabi's arena for Wednesday's finale.
Maccabi Rishon Letzion missed its chance to put away the national handball final series on Monday, opening the door to crosstown rival Hapoel Rishon Letzion's come-from-behind 30-27 victory, which evened the series at two apiece and forced a decisive Game 5.
With seven minutes left and visiting Maccabi up 25-24, Ioan Rosca ran a fast break down the left. Hapoel's goalkeeper, Tomislav Stojakovic, went out to meet him. Rosca tried to score above him, but the Serbian waved his long hands and blocked the shot. He thus missed his chance to build Maccabi's lead with time winding down, allowing Hapoel back into the match.
Maccabi helplessly watched as Idan Maimon and company took control of the game down the stretch for the win. The series now swings back to Maccabi's arena for Wednesday's finale.
Maccabi looked to be headed toward a four-game victory twice earlier in the game. The team opened strong with aggressive defense that took it to early leads of 5-2 and 8-6. But with its back against the wall, Hapoel shook off the pressure as Gidi Shiri, 19, reeled off two straight goals to give Hapoel its first lead at 9-8. Hapoel stretched the lead to 17-13 and had a chance to add another goal in the final minute of the half, but instead turned the ball over, allowing Maccabi to cut the lead to 17-14 at the break.
Maccabi took that momentum into the second half, as Gal Avraham scored the first two goals. Filip Marian, who finished with nine goals, and Rosca (six goals ) also helped propel Maccabi back into the lead at 24-23 at the 49-minute mark. Maccabi's fans began singing championship songs, which turned out to be premature.
Saar Fraenkel, Hapoel's coach, said after the game that his team has shown repeatedly this year that when they have no way out they raise their level of play.
Gilad Maor, Maccabi's coach, said the team missed its chance to go up by two goals, while Maimon did a great job of taking control of the game on defense.