Unfancied Hapoel Umm al-Fahm shocked mighty Maccabi Tel Aviv in an instant classic on the soccer pitch Saturday night, clawing its way back from a 0-2 deficit to knock the powerhouse out of cup contention.
Israel’s Sport5 news site crowned the game “the sensation of the decade.”
Hapoel’s Reef Mesika knocked in the go ahead goal in the 78th minute and Umm al-Fahm held on to a 3-2 lead until the final whistle was blown to win a spot in the State Cup’s sweet sixteen.
Umm al-Fahm which hails from the lower National League, was a heavy underdog against Maccabi Tel Aviv, a perennial Premier League powerhouse which has dominated this year. The team, which has won the Premier League championship two years running, has yet to lose a single game in the Premier League and had only given up a single goal all year.
Tel Aviv jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Umm al-Fahm managed to cut it 2-1 just before halftime. Hapoel pulled even with an own goal from Tel Aviv’s Shahar Piven in the 49th minute, and a short while later Mesika lasered a shot past Tel Aviv’s diving keeper to take the lead for good.
The game was played in nearby Afula as Umm al-Fahm’s field is still being built, but Hapoel fans packed the stands, cheering “Allahu akbar” (God is great) as their team secured the victory.
Several MKs from the Joint List majority Arab party tweeted out congratulatory messages to the squad after the win. The faction’s chairman Ayman Odeh said he called Hapoel Umm al-Fahm’s coach to applaud him and the entire team.
“Tremendous pride and inspiration for all of us,” Odeh said.
— Gabriel Haydu (@gabrielhaydu33) December 21, 2019
Tel Aviv manager Vladimir Ivić called the loss “the worst thing that’s happened to me since I came to the team.”
The State Cup is a knockout tournament played separately from Israel’s tiered leagues, and includes teams from across the spectrum of Israeli soccer, creating the opportunity for massive upsets like these.