Soccer: Toto Cup underdogs look to spoil party in semis

Hapoel Haifa faces Maccabi Tel Aviv in Petah Tikva, while Ashdod plays Maccabi Haifa in Netanya in the first semi of the day.

December 17, 2014 01:23
2 minute read.
Hen Ezra

Maccabi Haifa’s Hen Ezra . (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

Hapoel Haifa and Ashdod SC will try and deny Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa a classic showdown in the Toto Cup final when the competition’s semifinals are played on Wednesday.

Hapoel Haifa faces Maccabi Tel Aviv in Petah Tikva, while Ashdod plays Maccabi Haifa in Netanya in the first semi of the day.

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Hapoel Haifa sits rock-bottom of the Premier League standings after losing its past two matches by a 4-0 scoreline, including the derby against Maccabi on Sunday.

Coach Reuven Atar was given until after Saturday’s match against Hapoel Acre to save his job and he is hoping the lack of pressure on Wednesday will allow his players to pick up some confidence ahead of the weekend’s crucial league action.

“We will rotate our squad and I’m sure that the players who will play will give their best to reach the final,” said Atar.

“Clearly in our current situation the match against Acre is far more important and we are taking that into account.

But I’m hoping that the Toto Cup will see us turn a corner and also improve our play in the league.”

Two-time defending league champion Maccabi Tel Aviv is in the midst of a tight title race, but coach Pako Ayestaran insisted his team is focused on Wednesday’s encounter.

“For us this is the most important game at the moment and we are going to try and do our best,” he said before admitting he will use the depth of his squad to rest his regular starters.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter who you play with, but if the players come with the right mindset.”

Maccabi Haifa is brimming with confidence after thrashing Hapoel in the derby for its third victory in the past four matches.

However, Ashdod will also like its chances on Wednesday after going unbeaten in its past five league matches, a streak which began with a 1-0 win over Maccabi Haifa.

“After six games in the Toto Cup now we are in the semis,” said Haifa coach Aleksandar Stanojevic.

“Now we are close to the end and I want to do everything to try and go to the final.”

Ashdod coach Nir Klinger echoed the same sentiment.

“We have come a long way to reach the semis,” he said. “We know we are playing a strong side with a far deeper squad, but in one match anything can happen.”

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