Hapoel Haifa striker Eden Ben-Basat hopes he will be still smiling after the league-leader’s road encounter at Ashdod SC on Saturday..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Haifa remained within striking distance of first place in the Premier League standings while piling the misery on Maccabi Haifa with an emphatic 3-0 victory in the derby on Monday night.
Hapoel’s first half was mediocre at best, but an Ernest Mabouka own-goal in the 44th minute ensured it led at the break before pouring salt on Maccabi’s wounds in the second half.
Gabriel Tamaș’s long-distance free kick in the 56th minute found the back of the net after slipping through the hands of goalkeeper Ohad Levita, who was handed a starting role in place of Omri Glazer, who was guilty of a costly mistake in the quarterfinal cup clash between the teams last week which ended in a 1-1 draw that saw Hapoel advance on aggregate to the last-four.
Alon Turgeman made it 3-0 against his former team in the 64th minute and Hapoel blanked Maccabi in the Haifa derby for the second time this season.
Hapoel remained in fourth place, but closed back to within five points of Hapoel Beersheba in first, four points from Beitar Jerusalem in second and three from Maccabi Tel Aviv in third.
Maccabi Haifa’s disastrous season continued to get worse, with the Greens winning only two of their past 15 games.
Fortunately for the club that dominated local soccer in the first decade of the 21st century, both Hapoel Ashkelon and Hapoel Acre can’t stop losing, meaning the Greens still have an eight-point gap on the relegation zone.
However, Haifa goes to Ashkelon on Saturday and could find itself with a real battle on its hands to avoid demotion should it lose again.
Earlier Monday, Hapoel Haifa was paired with Hapoel Ra’anana in the State Cup semifinals, with Beitar Jerusalem to face Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the other semi.
The matches will be held in Haifa between March 31 and April 2. The final will take place at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on May 8 or 9.
Haifa will be playing in the last-four for the first time since 2004 when it went on to reach the final before losing to Bnei Sakhnin.
Haifa has won the cup three times in its history, but not since 1974.
Ra’anana will be playing in its first semifinal in club history after overcoming Ashdod SC on penalties in the last-eight.
Beitar is the only team of the four semifinalists which also reached the last-four last season where it lost 2-1 to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Jerusalem is targeting its 11th final in the hope of remaining on course for a seventh cup. Beitar was last part of the final in 2009 when it also lifted the trophy.
Kiryat Shmona, which knocked out reigning Premier League champion Hapoel Beersheba in the quarters, has the most recent memories of claiming the cup, going all the way in 2014, which was also the last time it played in the semis.
Also Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv took a significant step towards a return to the top flight, beating Hapoel Kfar Saba 4-0 to consolidate its hold on first place in the National League standings.
Tel Aviv has a 10-point gap over Hapoel Rishon Lezion in second place, but more importantly is 11 points ahead of Kfar Saba in third, with the top two teams at the end of the season to earn promotion to the Premier League.