Hapoel Tel Aviv 298.88.
(photo credit: )
Ilia Yavorian presented Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Dror Kashtan with the perfect farewell gift Tuesday night. The forward scored the only goal of the 2006 State Cup final three minutes from the end of regulation and gave his team the victory over intra-city rival Bnei Yehuda at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Kashtan is leaving Hapoel after the season ends to become the national team coach and Tuesday's cup final was the sweetest ending possible to his club career.
"I'm overcome with joy and excitement," Kashtan said after the match. "This is my sixth cup as a coach and a sensational achievement for the players and the club."
Bnei Yehuda fans left the stadium disappointed as there was no fairy tale ending for their "Cinderella" cup run. Bnei Yehuda was playing in its first cup final since 1981 and was heartbroken at not being able to repeat that victory 25 years ago.
Despite controlling the first half and coming close to scoring on several occasions, Bnei Yehuda lacked a finishing touch and always found itself just short of scoring.
"We learned today how cruel soccer can be and how costly mistakes are at critical situations," Bnei Yehuda coach Nitzan Shirazi said after the match. "One mistake cost us the match and shattered our dream."
Shirazi's players will need to bounce back as quickly as possible with Bnei Yehuda still requiring one more league point in its last match to guarantee itself European soccer next year.
The Hapoel defense was at its best once again and held its opponents scoreless for a fifth-straight State Cup match, completing an entire campaign without conceding a single goal.
Tuesday's triumph gave Hapoel its sixth State Cup and first major title since 2000.
"It is the sweetest feeling to win the cup after so many years without a title," Hapoel star defender Shimon Gershon said after the match. "It was a difficult game, but I felt that we would score a late goal and I couldn't be any happier."
Bnei Yehuda made the brighter start and could have taken the lead in the seventh minute of the match. Asi Baldot caught the Hapoel defense napping but squandered the chance and shot straight at 'keeper Shavit Elimelech.
Bnei Yehuda continued to control possession and seven minutes later, Eli Abarbanel had his shot tipped over the bar by Elimelech.
Hapoel slowly worked its way into the match and got its first scoring chance thanks to a defensive mistake by its opponents.
Baruch Dego took advantage of Itzik Azuz's slipup and crossed the ball for Yavorian, who shot wide.
Five minutes later, Hapoel wasted another opportunity when Elyaniv Barda headed straight at 'keeper Vincent Enyeama.
At the start of the second half, Hapoel seized the initiative and began to control the match. Six minutes into the period, Yavorian could have given his team the lead but his shot was saved by Enyeama.
Hapoel continued to attack and a minute later, it was Dego who was denied by a fantastic save from Bnei Yehuda's Nigerian keeper.
Seven minutes after Dego's miss, it was Bnei Yehuda's turn to come close to scoring when Baldot cleared the Hapoel defense but was unable to beat Elimelech, who again came to his team's rescue.
The first goal was always going to be crucial and as the final whistle neared, both teams pushed forward for the winner.
Four minutes from time, Moshe Biton failed to finish off an excellent Bnei Yehuda attack with Elimelech saving the ball easily.
A minute later, Hapoel finally broke the deadlock. Substitute Ibazito Ogabuna raced down the sideline and crossed the ball for Yavorian, who spun clear of the Bnei Yehuda defense and smashed the ball into the top left corner.
Bnei Yehuda was unable to muster a stoppage-time comeback and the final whistle marked the start of Hapoel's celebrations.