Local Soccer: Ironi Kiryat Shmona qualifies for Europe

Team from the north will play in next season's UEFA Cup after win at Netanya.

ironi kiryat shmona 88 (photo credit: )
ironi kiryat shmona 88
(photo credit: )
Ironi Kiryat Shmona booked its place in the UEFA Cup on Sunday night, leapfrogging Bnei Sakhnin into third place in the standings thanks to a 2-1 victory at Maccabi Netanya. Kiryat Shmona was promoted to the Premier League for the first time in its history just last summer, and Sunday's victory caps a superb debut season in the top flight. Ironi joins runner-up Maccabi Netanya and cup-finalist Hapoel Tel Aviv in the UEFA Cup, with Betar Jerusalem to play in the Champions League qualifiers. Thierry Tazemeta seemed to have dashed Kiryat Shmona's hopes when he gave Netanya the lead in the 44th minute, but goals from Salah Hasarma (48) and Peter Ofori-Quaye (75) gave the northerners the win and a historic place in European competition next season. It was clearly evident at the start of the match that Kiryat Shomna was the team which was in need of the points and Yuval Avidor almost gave the side the lead just two minutes into the encounter. The visitors' top scorer stole the ball from the Netanya defense, but failed to beat 'keeper Liran Shtrauber, to the relief of the Maccabi faithful. Kiryat Shomna couldn't convert its control into chances and paid the price a minute before the interval. Yehiel Tzagai laid the ball off brilliantly for Tazemeta, who had no trouble scoring past the 'keeper to give Netanya the lead at the break. Kiryat Shmona surged forward in search of an equalizer at the start of the second half and wouldn't take long to tie the score. In the 46th minute Amir Nosbaum's header was kept out only by Tzagai, but two minutes later Hasarma equalized with a free-kick from 20 meters out which went in off Dele Yampolsky. The visitors immediately went looking for a winner and finally scored the precious goal in the 75th minute. Avidor's shot from the center of the box was saved by Shtrauber, but Ofori-Quaye was first to the rebound to score what will forever be remembered as the goal which qualified Kiryat Shmona for the UEFA Cup.