Bnei Yehuda captured their 2nd Israel State Cup in the last 3 years by defeating Maccabi Netanya 5-4 on penalties at Sammy Ofer Stadium. Yuval Ashkenazi scored the decisive spot kick after the two sides ended 120 minutes all knotted up at 1-1 and sent the Hatikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv into delirium.
This was the 4th time Bnei Yehuda won the State Cup out of 8 tries and their third via penalties. Their last Cup win was in 2017 when they took home the trophy also via penalties against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
Ashkenazi is a true rags to riches story after working his way up from the lower divisions of Israeli football to find himself on the grand stage lifting the State Cup. The 27-year old midfielder has made a habit of performing in the clutch this season when his perfectly placed late game goal in the semifinals of the competition knocked out favorites Maccabi Tel Aviv.
After each team slotted home their first four penalties, Netanya’s Gaby Kanichowsky missed his squad’s 5th giving Ashkenazi the chance to once again play hero, just beating keeper Dani Amos as the ball squirted through his hands and trickled into the goal.
In front of close to 30,000 fans split evenly between the teams, Guy Melamed opened the scoring early for Slobodan Drapic’s side as he took a Ali Muhammed ball in the 4th minute and slammed home a scorcher from 20 meters out to give Netanya a 1-0 advantage.
Bnei Yehuda began to press for the equalizer, but Mavis Tchibota’s 19th minute chance and Shay Konstantin’s ball off the post 15 minutes later just came up short.
The pair of Tchibota and Konstantin continued to threaten the Netanya goal in the second half but couldn’t find the back of the goal. However, in the 83rd minute the active Konstantin found substitute Dor Jan who finally beat Amos to draw even at 1-1.
The score remained as is throughout the 30 minutes of overtime until Ashkenazi’s penalty heroics gave Head Coach Yossi Abuksis his first ever trophy.
“There are things that can’t be explained in words,” began an exuberant Abuksis. “When I saw our fans and how they cheered us on, I thought how amazing it would it be if we can make them even happier. When you can win a Cup with young players who aren’t well known, it’s an even more special.”
Yuval Ashkenazi was all smiles after hoisting the trophy, “I want to thank my family and friends. I’m so happy that we did it! I dreamed about bringing the Cup to Bnei Yehuda and I knew when I began playing soccer that I would go as far as I could if I continued to believe in myself. I am no worthy to talk about our coach but I will say this, he’s a wonderful coach.”