Hapoel Ramat Gan FC are celebrating their second Israeli Cup triumph after beating favourites Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes at the Netanya Municipal Stadium.
With today's final being played at a venue for this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship, it was appropriate that the winning spot kick was scored by Israel U21 player Israel Zaguri. His conversion brought joy to a Hapoel Ramat Gan team that sit bottom of the country's Premier League, having been relegated two weeks ago.
Remarkably, the victory came exactly ten years since the Reds sensationally lifted their first cup as a second-division side. Salah Hasarma and Dan Einbinder missed in the shootout for Hapoel Kiryat Shmona.
Ramat Gan coach Eli Cohen was in charge a decade ago and, having returned to the post this term in an attempt to stave off the drop, managed to take the team all the way to the final.
However, it was first-time finalists Kiryat Shmona – fourth in the top flight and semi-final conquerors of Maccabi Haifa FC – who took the lead after 17 minutes of this Netanya showpiece. From Osei Mawuli's delivery, Shimon Abuhatzira broke the deadlock for the northerners with a left-footed effort past Itay Arkin.
Ramat Gan fought back and in the 52nd minute Omer Buchsenbaum, a veteran of the 2003 cup-winning campaign, struck after the ball had been deflected onto him by Kiryat Shmona goalkeeper Dani Amos. Ultimately it was the cue for an additional 30 minutes in which the underdogs were reduced to ten men by Ophir Hemo's second yellow card.
Ramat Gan keeper and captain Arkin said: "The penalties were my moment and I went out to enjoy it. Although I didn't stop any spot kick, I'd like to think I scared my opponents."
Winning coach Cohen reflected on a crazy season: "I didn't believe we could do it, we only wanted to survive. Our main goal was not achieved and this is a big consolation for us. We finish a bitter year with a good taste."
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