Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC have won the Israeli Cup for the first time in their history thanks to Ahmed Abed's extra-time winner against second-tier Maccabi Netanya FC.
The Israeli Cup was the only domestic trophy missing from Kiryat Shmona's cabinet after a memorable title triumph two years ago and four other major cup wins since their foundation in 2000. They will enter the UEFA Europa League in the second qualifying round.
The first half was one of few chances although Kiryat Shmona's Mindaugas Panka spurned the best opportunity to open the scoring just seconds before the interval. The second period was similarly tight with neither side prepared to concede as extra time loomed.
Indeed, just seven minutes into the extra 30, last season's losing finalists Kiryat Shmona broke the deadlock. Roei Kehat found Abed on the edge of the box and the striker swivelled on the spot before firing a sharp, low finish into a bottom corner to leave Ohad Levita helpless. Maccabi Netanya will not end the season empty handed, though, as they clinched promotion back to Israel's top flight as second division winners.
"It was hard," said Kiryat Shmona's young coach Barak Bakahr. "We came into the game as favourites and it's never easy. The time went quickly and I didn't want to go to penalties again [as it did in the 2012/13 final]. I love my players so much and I said to them before the match that in one game anything can happen but I would appreciate them nonetheless even if we didn't win."
Match-winner Abed added: "I celebrated the goal with a bow because I get married next month. I'm happy and honoured to score this goal for the team. I always said I want to stay here, this club is something special."
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