England went into the tie brimming with confidence following an impressive run of results, and were rewarded for their positive start with a goal inside the first minute of the game. Motti Colman’s raking pass down the right flank found captain Tal Stern, whose measured cross was coolly swept home by striker Zak White for his first goal for the club. The game was soon marred by a serious injury to Raanana forward Hannani Corney, who had to be stretchered to hospital with a broken thigh following an innocuous-looking challenge just outside the England box.
However, Raanana reacted well to the unfortunate incident and equalised as a free-kick from deep inside England’s half was met by Hillel Bloch, who finished from inside the box at the second attempt.
England soon retook the lead in the 30th minute when an impressive passage of play, which saw Nicky Plotnek’s 20-yard strike crashing off the crossbar, only for the ball to fall kindly for Motti Colman, who drilled a stunning half-volley to the Keeper’s bottom right corner.
The subsequent period of the game was characterised by Raanana dominating possession, with England content to sit deep and catch the league leaders on the break. Several half chances were squandered by both sides either side of the half, with both Ben Meir and White working tirelessly up front to bring their respective teammates into play. Raanana’s equaliser arrived in the 70th minute as Ben Meir beat England’s offside trap to slot past Roy Meron in England’s goal.
However, England were determined to leave Ramat Aviv with the three points, and dealt a final and devastating blow with the next attack of the game, with a goal that was worthy of winning any match. A long ball up to White was headed clear by the Raanana defence, with the ball dropping 30 yards out to the on-rushing Stern. As the ball popped up off the turf, Stern hit the ball on the half-volley, with the ball dipping and swerving in mid-air before crashing in off the post and into the net.
A stunned Raanana failed to penetrate the England defence thereafter, with Sidi and Waiman putting in a masterclass in heroic defending.
An even and hard-fought game was symbolically bought to a close deep into injury time with the switching off of the floodlights, as England celebrated a hard fought victory, in the darkness of the University pitch.
England Manager, Terry Newman, was delighted with his team’s performance. He said: “We had to take the lead three times in this game. Every time we struck, Ranaana fought back hard. Yet our mental strength and determination paid off. A great result for us, and a rare victory against a Ranaana team that will probably win the league this year.”