Ra’anana 1 – 1 Jerusalem (5-4 on penalties)
Penalty shoot-outs sometimes epitomise football, where the smallest margin can be the difference between success and failure – such was the case on Saturday night as Ra’anana progressed to the semi-final of the Olim Cup.
Having already wrapped up the league, Ra’anana’s impressive season continues. A team that only last season was languishing at the bottom of the table has been rejuvenated in no small way due to the re-emergence of the league’s top goalscorer Aviad Ben Meir and new talisman and captain Josh Lipman. The management trio of Guv Lebens, Moshe Freedman and Avi Wiesenberg has seen Ra’anana become the most consistent team in the league running out good performances week after week. Jerusalem, who had beaten Ra’anana in their last meeting, traveled up to the country with high expectations and the hope of a solid cup run. Ra’anana still on a high of wining the league were keen for their season to finish with a bang.
Both teams started nervously with little being given away, time and space at a premium opportunities were few and far between. The deadlock was eventually broken in the 15th minute when Hillel Bloch’s long-range effort caught the otherwise solid hands of Jerusalem goalkeeper Daniel Boerstra off guard and put Ra’anana in a commanding position.
Jerusalem continued to probe, with Ra’anana sitting deep and protecting their lead. Fine goalkeeping from Daniel Bergman and confident defending from Mike Isaacson kept Jerusalem at bay for the remainder of the half.
Jerusalem’s patience finally paid off in the 70th minute when a poor Ra’anana short free-kick was delivered clumsily and quickly intercepted by Jerusalem, playing in Moishe Lewis who rounded the goalkeeper to set up a thrilling finale.
Ra’anana responded well to the goal and started pushing forward more, Haim Elimelech coming closest, breaking in from the right but the low shot not having enough power on it. Jerusalem probably could have sealed the win five minutes from time when a thunderous shot was cleared off the line by Ronen Goldsmith. With the clock approaching midnight the tie was decided by penalty shootout.
Jerusalem won the toss went first and missed the first penalty of the night. Despite the pressure all other penalty takers did their job, leaving Zeev Landsman with the final penalty. He stepped up and coolly slotted it home to send Ra’anana through to the semi’s.
Ra’anana co-manager Avi Wiesenberg said: “It’s been a great season and I’m pleased it’s not yet over. Jerusalem always give us a good run out and have a young team, we were rusty from a couple of weeks off but I think the draw was fair. Big credit to our penalty takers who all did their jobs and we look forward to keeping the double dream alive, a cup final will be the icing on the cake this season.”