May 21, 2002. Ramat Gan Stadium. Maccabi Tel Aviv against Maccabi Haifa in a winner take all match for the State Cup title. Both sides had to defeat some tough competition to get the opportunity to meet the President at the time, Moshe Katsav. After 120 minutes the Yellow & Blue and the Greens couldn’t decide a winner as the match went into penalties and who better to take a trip down memory lane than the man who stood in the Tel Aviv goal, Liran Strauber.
14 years have gone by since the two teams battled in the Israeli Classico for the Cup and this time they will kick off at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Tuesday at 20:50 in the final match of the season and perhaps the most important. Liran Strauber will take us back to the big plays, amazing saves, the trash talk and of course the joy of capturing the State Cup at the end of a long evening.
הדרך אל הגמר
The road to the final:
“Our first Cup match was against Hapoel Haifa and if I recall correctly it was one of the toughest we had all tournament long. We were able to squeak by and then went all the way to the Final. Maccabi Haifa also came into the match in fine form. I had won three Cups with Maccabi and the whole Stadium in Ramat Gan was painted Yellow & Blue.”
“It was a very difficult game and both sides had plenty of chances to score. I won’t speak for myself but you could say that we were the main reason why the crowd was getting a bit disappointed and didn’t get to see a goal. The truth is that a few days before the Final I sent Dudu Aoute a message about the match with a video of some hilights and we spoke about past memories. This was one of that Finals that I really enjoyed even though after 120 minutes the match was still goalless.
The penalty shootout from his point of view:
“The shootout saw me pitted against some great scorers who could really kick the ball. I was close to saving one of the penalties but even that went in. Near the end you’re telling yourself that someone has to miss! I kept diving to the correct corners but the balls still kept going in. Just before Giovanni Rosso stepped up to take his spot kick, I started to trash talk wth him and I said, Giovo, what do you need this for? Shoot it out. I dove to the left and he kick the ball wide right. At that moment I knew the Cup would be ours because Avi was up next. I knew he would win it. I played with Nimni for a long time and I could maybe count his missed penalties on one hand. If I had to pick one player to take a deciding penalty it would be him and all I had to do was wait for the ball to hit the back of the goal.”
The excitement of winning the Cup:
“We all ran after Avi and we were so excited that we all jumped on top of him on the pitch. I was so tired by then especially after 120 minutes of action plus penalties. Sometimes things aren’t in your hands but I’m happy that we had a bit of luck with us. I won back to back Cups during this period and you could say that it’s a bit easier to win two Cups in a row than two league titles because it’s only one match.”
If you had to give Peter Bosz’s players some advice what would it be?
“I would tell them to do exactly what they did on Saturday night. Plain and simple. This match will be do or die with a tremendous amount of pressure. The idea is to go into the match and just explode. Check you injuries and pain at the door and go out and win the Cup. If Maccabi thinks they will see the same club that they did on Saturday, they could pay dearly, but I believe that the players and staff know full well that this game will be a totally different story.”