Jubilation for Jerusalem
OLIM LEAGUE CUP SEMI-FINAL
JERUSALEM 3 BAMBI 2
Moishe Lewis was the two-goal hero as Jerusalem ended Bambi's double hopes with a thrilling 3-2 victory.
On the back of their 5-1 win last week - which all but sealed their first league title - Bambi came into this game in the knowledge that they were just two games away from the first ever Olim League and Cup double.
Jerusalem, who have been plagued with injuries throughout the season, knew that with a near full-strength side at their disposal, they would pose a completely different challenge to the weakened side humiliated by the same opposition just seven days earlier.
Missing playmaker Gav Cohen and captain Dan Kosky, Jerusalem started brightest and they deservedly forged ahead when Daniel Cohen and outmuscled his marker to cross the ball into the path of Lewis who put the cup holders 1-0 up.
Both teams created a series of chances, but the Jerusalem defence was punished for ball-watching as Aviv Zemer timed his run perfectly to lob the ball over Daniel Boerstra in the Jerusalem goal.
Jerusalem hit straight back as they upped the the tempo, with Amit Dinowitz expertly denied by the Bambi keeper. Jerusalem piled on further pressure, but failed to get past the keeper.
Lewis restored Jerusalem's lead on the half hour; a perfectly-weighted through ball found him on the edge of the area and he made no mistake, for his and Jerusalem's second.
It was 3-1 eight minutes before the break when former Hendon United star Natan Wiesenberg rose highest to head in the corner.
Bambi rallied well and it needed a smart save from Boerstra, who tipped the ball on to the post to maintain Jerusalem's two-goal advantage
Jerusalem finished the half the stronger and Akiva Zneimer came close to adding a fourth, only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle.
Jerusalem started the second half as they finished the first, and were denied a penalty for handball two minutes after the restart. Bambi countered, and Boerstra again proved to be more than a match in the Jerusalem goal.
In classic end-to-end cup action, Zack Lewis came close to marking his return from injury with a goal, doing all the hard work, only to shoot wide.
In the 55th minute, a moment of brilliance from league top-scorer Zemer pulled Bambi back into the game, as he volleyed a cross first time into the top left-hand corner for one of the best goals of the season.
There was nothing to separate the teams for the next 20 minutes, with both sides trying to wrestle control of the game. Jerusalem made further changes to beef up the middle, however in the 78th minute, Bambi were denied an equaliser by a great save by Boerstra.
Zack Lewis then countered for Jerusalem, only to be bundled over in the box for a stonewall penalty, but again the referee turned down Jerusalem's appeals.
Zack Lewis was denied by another smart piece of goalkeeping minutes later. The referree added four minutes of injury time, and Bambi pushed everyone up, including their keeper for a corner, but there was simply no way past the outstanding Boerstra.
With time running out, Jerusalem broke, and with the Bambi keeper still in the Jerusalem half, Daniel Cohen should have settled the tie, when he turned the last defender, and shot from 40 yards, only to see his shot rebound back off the post.
Jeursalem's joint-manager Danny Newman said: "Fair play to Bambi - they are by far the strongest and most consistent team this year and fully deserve the league title, which they have virtually wrapped up.
"We were very close to full strength and got our tactics spot on. We didn't let Bambi get into their stride and I felt we were the better side in the first half.
"After last week, I don't think Bambi expected us to be so strong. We fully deserved to go in 3-1 up at half time and could even have had one or two more.
"We tried desparately to get a fourth and maybe pressed a little too hard. Against a team like Bambi, you need at least a three-goal cushion. Aviv Zemer, is a top striker, and his phenomenal finish made it the grandstand finish we had hoped to avoid. They will probably feel hard done by after a couple of penalty decisions went against them, but I think the calls evened themselves out, as we also had two very strong appeals rejected."
"Every one of our players performed tonight, executing our game-plan to perfection and I think despite a couple of dodgy calls eachway, we were deserved winners. Our aim at the beginning of the season was to win silverware for an unprecedented third year in a row. Though with Aviv City and England FC still to play out the other semi, it will be no simple task.
"However, we are now only 90 minutes away from that dream, and we fully plan on defending the cup."
Jerusalem: Daniel Boerstta, Danny Sigal, Lollu Hibbert, Solomon Emekle Eze, Yoel Finches, Amit Dinowitz, Chaim Lev, Eli Warner, Akiva Zneimer, Daniel Cohen, Moishe Lewis. Subs: Yigal Grayeff, Zack Lewis, Natan Wiesenberg
Goals: Moishe Lewis 2, Natan Wiesenberg
Bambi: Eyal Younger, Oren Maor, Tzach Asher, Yoni Sarig, Gadi Itzchak, Gal Kopilevitch, Ido Sacagiu, Hugo, Eli Yehouda, Aviv Halperin, Avi Esiya, Aviv Zemer, Ori Cabir
Goal: Aviv Zemer 2