Penalty shoot-out ends Maccabiah dream

By Danny Caro in Haifa, July 22, 2009

The Maccabiah Games ended in heartbreak for Great Britain as three teams lost major finals last night.

With the last few results filtering in, the delegation appeared to finish with eight golds, although it could have been better had things gone their way on Day 10 in Israel.

There were tearful scenes at the end of the Open football final as Jonathan Kestenbaum’s men were beaten 3-2 on penalties by Argentina at Maccabi Haifa’s Kiryat Eliezer stadium.

Captain Sam Sloma put GB ahead midway through the first half following good work from top-scorer Paul Hakim. Sloma came close to adding a second but with the team 90 seconds away from victory, Argentina levelled with a header from a free-kick.

With both teams tiring in extra time, the contest went to penalties. GB made a disastrous start with Craig Ellis and Michael Sacks missing.

Keeper Andy Goldman kept them in it, saving Argentina’s first and fourth attempts. And while Mitch Hahn and substitute Alex Levack were successful, man of the match Guy Morris had his effort saved by the substitute keeper, a penalty specialist who had been brought on seconds before the end of extra time.

Kestenbaum said: “I felt that we were the better team over the 90 minutes. But 1-0 is a dangerous scoreline going into the last five minutes. We should have been two goals up at that point and were punished from a set-play. It was the only time we switched off at a set-piece.

“But I am amazingly proud of the team. Very few people believed that a GB Open side could reach the final for the first time in 48 years. We will give inspiration to the next group of players coming through.”

Having drawn 1-1 against the same opponent in their first group game, they qualified for the latter stages of the competition despite losing against France.

But clean sheets against Brazil, the USA and a strong Israel team took them through to the final.

The victory over Israel was arguably their most impressive performance as they were up against professional players who represent the country at Under 19 and 20 level.

Head coach Les Reed said the team was well-drilled for a penalty scenario. He said: “It’s all down to the individuals on the day.

“They practised their penalties many times and were confident. But it’s very different on the pitch.

“We have come a long way and broken a lot of records. I’m really proud.”

Last updated: 10:40am, July 23 2009