England FC upset double-chasing Ra’anana after going to penalty kicks Saturday night to set up a final against Inter in this weekend’s Olim Cup final for teams made up largely of immigrants.
League champion Ra’anana was the massive favorite, with leading scorer Aviad and U-19 star Gabby leading the line. The players were confident going in even though they had lost the last game between the two teams. England, meanwhile, had been on a great run but then lost a few key players.
The England defense was in excellent form on the night, led by Yoni Sidi and Tomer Zaban. It did not allow Ra’anana any chances in the first half, much to the frustration of that side’s ever vocal bench. The first half’s best chance fell to England forward Chad Waldman, who was played in by Zac White and scuffed his chance wide.
England played more smoothly in the second half, increasingly frustrating the champions, who had the chance of the game on 80 minutes when at last their two super strikers could combine. A great square ball from Gabby left Aviad with a tap-in from three yards that he somehow put over the bar. The game headed into dreaded penalty kicks.
England had already won the Pesach Cup this season from the white spot and put away all its kicks. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Roy Meron managed to save two out of Ra’anana’s four attempts, sending England into the final.
“Our boys put in an immense shift today from back to front and deserved to win for the heart they showed,” said England captain Tal Stern, who called Meron “the hero of the shoot-out.”