Soccer / State Cup final
Bnei Yehuda fans have been waiting 29 years for their team to shake hands with the president after a State Cup final - but they'll have to wait at least another year after losing 3-1 to Hapoel Tel Aviv at the Ramat Gan Stadium yesterday.
They had heard that Hapoel Tel Aviv was broken after drawing with Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday and lost its spot at the top of the Premier League table. Instead, the Reds took a first half lead and then answered Bnei Yehuda's best shot at equalizing with an exciting goal that sealed a meeting with President Shimon Peres.
It was Hapoel's third cup in five years, also winning in 2007 and 2008.
Given the difference on paper, the cup was essentially Hapoel's for the taking, and coach Eli Guttman demonstrated that his team was up to the challenge. While he denied in a post-game interview that his charges were demoralized by Saturday's loss, his players called him a great motivator.
Guttman was counting on coach Guy Luzon not trying to emulate Maccabi Tel Aviv by massing their defense. His plan was to press Bnei Yehuda and patiently beat a path to Dele Aiyenugba's goal. Gil Vermouth and Eran Zahavi tried to implement the strategy but ran into a determined, well-organized rearguard.
Bnei Yehuda eventually opened up its defense in order to generate a goal, and that's when Vermouth struck. In the 25th minute, he exploited an opening, took the ball into the penalty area and fired in an accurate shot for Hapoel to take the lead.
Luzon's charges did not back down, and in the 36th minute Itzik Azuz set up an opportunity to equalize, but Omri Canada hesitated at the last moment and blew Bnei Yehuda's chance to score. Two minutes later, Bnei Yehuda did tie the game thanks to Douglas Da Silva's own goal when trying to stop a shot by Oz Raly from the wing.
Hapoel got a huge break in the 42nd minute when Aiyenugba was sent off for bringing down Itay Shechter in the penalty area. Hapoel goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama scored from the penalty spot to make it 2-1.
After the break, Canada had another golden opportunity to score, but once again hesitated, allowing Walid Badir to get in front of him and block his feeble shot.
Hapoel responded in the 74th minute with a fantastic triple pass from Shechter to Vermouth to Zahavi, then back to Vermouth to seal the result. After Badir accepted the trophy from President Peres and raised it in celebration, Guttman ran over to the Hapoel fans to lead them in song.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now