It took an epic semi-final battle win in extra-time against a very physical Glebe Gorillas team last Saturday to do it, but Maccabi-Hakoah FC’s Eastern Suburbs Football Association Saturday men’s division 2 side deservedly earned themselves a grand final spot.
Both teams struggled to get their attack going in the opening half-hour, as they adjusted their passing games to deal with a Centennial Park field that had uneven areas and long grass.
But it was the Maccabi men who looked more threatening in attack, and had the most shots on target, although seconds before half-time, it took a brilliant, reflex save by Maccabi’s keeper Adin Ephraim to stop a powerful shot by Glebe’s striker.
The half-time message from Maccabi’s captain-coach Dan Engelman was “we’re all over them, let’s keep going!” But Glebe were up to the challenge, and were able to retain more possession in the second half, which finished 0-0.
A Maccabi player was sin-binned for 10 minutes during that half, for backchatting, but commitment to defence ensured no damage was done on the scoreboard.
Maccabi hit the lead midway through the first period of extra-time, when pressure applied after a wave of attacking raids resulted in a corner, and a well-executed header into Glebe’s goal mouth by Max Ephraim, beating the keeper. It proved to be the match-winner.
Things got heated in the last period of extra-time, when players from both sides received yellow cards, and crucially, three Glebe players were red-carded within the space of 10 minutes, for foul play. Engelman felt satisfied and proud of the 1-0 win by his team, telling The AJN “to play for 120 minutes in a semi-final and keep a clean sheet … I couldn’t ask for any more than that”.
“It was quite a physical game, and everyone in our team put in a really good and sustained effort, and a win is the result.
“While it was hard for both sides to play good football on a pitch like that, our tactics remained to hit our targets and retain possession, and we were able to do that.”
Maccabi, who finished on top of the ladder at the end of the regular season, will now enjoy this weekend off, before playing in the grand final on September 2, against the winner of the preliminary final between Glebe and Lokomotiv Cove.