Hapoel Beersheva Elyaniv Barda.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Haifa secured its progress to the State Cup semifinals in emphatic fashion on Tuesday night, beating Bnei Yehuda 4-1 in the second leg of the quarterfinals at Haifa Stadium to claim a 6-3 aggregate victory.
Both teams had everything to play for after the first leg had ended in a 2-2 draw at Bloomfield Stadium, and it was Bnei Yehuda which took the lead through Pedro Galvan in the 31st minute.
However, Haifa equalized through a superb Gili Vermouth strike from the edge of the box three minutes later and Ben Elgrabli’s own goal three minutes from the break put the hosts in the driving seat.
Yossi Benayoun made it 3-1 in the 56th minute and Glynor Plet effectively secured Haifa’s progress in the 71st minute before Galvan missed a penalty for Bnei Yehuda.
Earlier Tuesday, Bnei Sakhnin became the first team to secure its progress to the last four. Sakhnin survived a massive scare to reach its first semi in 10 years, losing 2-0 to Hapoel Ashkelon of the National League but prevailing 3-2 on aggregate.
An embarrassing mistake by Sakhnin goalkeeper Mahmud Kandil gifted Ashkelon the opener in the 22nd minute, with Nirel Machpud’s meek effort rolling between the stopper’s legs. Sakhnin found itself down to 10 men eight minutes later, with Khaled Khalaila being sent off after elbowing Baruch Dego in the face.
Idan Shriki brought the hosts within a single goal of forcing extra time in the 68th minute, but despite reaching numerous chances, Ashkelon couldn’t score a third goal and Sakhnin advanced.
“This was our worst game since I arrived at Sakhnin,” said coach Yossi Abuksis, who joined the team late last year.”I have a feeling that some of our players took this match lightly. I’m very angry and I’ll tell them that. The bottom line is that we have reached the semis but we need to learn from this match.”
Premier League leaders Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv are massive favorites to join Haifa and Sakhnin in the semis when they play their second legs on Wednesday.
Maccabi hosts Hapoel Kfar Saba after winning the first leg 3-0, while Beersheba visits Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle of the second division with a 2-0 lead from the first match.
“Everybody who plays football knows that this is not an easy match,” insisted Maccabi coach Peter Bosz. “We had a fantastic result away, but we have to perform well and we want to win at home as well.
We saw them play against Beersheba a few days ago and they played some very good football.”
With Beersheba and Maccabi still on course for a possible second straight showdown in the cup final, while also being in the midst of a tight title race in the Premier League, players from both sides have been exchanging verbal jabs over recent weeks.
Maccabi star Eran Zahavi claimed that the reason the club didn’t sign any new Israeli players during the January transfer window was that there weren’t any good enough on the market, explaining that the best local talent plays for the yellowand- blue.
Beersheba midfielder Maor Buzaglo responded this past weekend, saying that “Maccabi has the best players in Tel Aviv while Beersheba has the best players in Israel.”
“We are a happy team and when you are happy you can achieve a lot,” added Buzaglo. “I don’t know what’s happening at Maccabi. We need to give them respect, but we are focused on our own play. The fact Maccabi players keep talking about Beersheba shows how much progress we have made.”
Bosz refused to join the psychological games.
“Let them say that they have better players,” he commented on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to play these games. If they think so, then fantastic. We will see at the end of the season.”Mac Haifa zips by Bnei Yehuda into cup semis Ashkelon puts scare into Sakhnin, but can’t overturn 3-0 deficit • Mac TA, Beersheba on deck Maccabi Haifa captain Yossi Benayoun celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal in last night’s 4-1 State Cup victory over Bnei Yehuda at Haifa Stadium. (Eran Luf) • By allon sinai results Tuesday’s results: State Cup quarterfinals second leg: Hapoel Ashkelon 2, Bnei Sakhnin 0 (Sakhnin wins 3-2 on aggregate); Maccabi Haifa 4, Bnei Yehuda 1 (Haifa wins 6-3 on aggregate).
Wednesday on TV: Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle vs Hapoel Beersheba (Beersheba leads 2-0 from first leg) (live on Sport5+Live at 6:45 p.m.); Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Hapoel Kfar Saba (Mac TA leads 3-0 from first leg) (live on Sport5+Live at 8:55 p.m.)