Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa remained on course for a second straight
meeting in the State Cup final after living up to their billing as favorites on
Tuesday night and advancing to the semifinals.
Hapoel, which beat Haifa
1-0 in last year’s final to claim the cup for a second consecutive year and for
the fourth time in six seasons, had the far tougher job on Tuesday, but
eventually overcame Maccabi Netanya 1-0 on the road courtesy of Elroei Cohen’s
superb solo effort in the 59th minute.
Haifa, which hasn’t won the cup
since 1998, encountered little trouble against National League struggler Hapoel
Upper Nazareth, winning 2-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium thanks to goals from Alon
Turgeman (6) and Yaniv Katan (46).
Tel Aviv and Haifa joined Ashdod SC
and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, who advanced to the last four on Monday. The draw for
the semis will be held this coming Sunday and the matches will take place at
National Stadium in Ramat Gan in three weeks time.
Netanya had reached
the semis three times in the past five years, but hasn’t played in a final since
last winning the cup in 1978 and it will have to wait at least one more year
before ending the drought after a disappointing home defeat to
The visitors almost got on the board with the match just over a
minute old, with Netanya goalkeeper Amir Edri spreading himself to save Walid
Badier’s close range attempt.
Mirko Oremus came centimeters away from
giving Tel Aviv the lead in the 16th minute when his left-footed curler just
missed the left upright, but Hapoel ultimately took a deserved lead in the 59th
Cohen picked up the ball at the halfway line and surged up the
field unchallenged before releasing a blistering shot from the edge of the
Omer Damari should have clinched the win in the 76th minute, but he
inexplicably sent his shot wide with an empty net at his mercy after rounding
The miss almost cost Hapoel dearly, with Oremus being sent off two
minutes later for a second bookable offense, resulting in Netanya throwing
caution to the wind in the final 10 minutes.
Premier League leading
scorer Ahmed Saba twice came close to equalizing, but Hapoel held on for a
precious win which keeps alive its hopes of becoming the first team in 73 years
to win the cup three seasons in a row.
“Winning such a match in Netanya
really shows the character of the team,” Tel Aviv coach Nitzan Shirazi
“Netanya came close after we went down to 10 men and I’m happy that
towards the end luck was also on our side.”
Haifa entered its
quarterfinal at Kiryat Eliezer as a massive favorite and it effectively clinched
the win when it took the lead in the sixth minute.
A nifty team move
ended with Katan squaring the ball for Turgeman for an easy
Turgeman returned the favor in first half stoppage time and Katan
did not squander the chance, coolly slotting in Haifa’s second goal and putting
the match to bed by halftime.
“We did our job tonight and now our goal is
to win the cup,” said Katan, who is desperate to lift the cup after losing three
times in the final with Haifa, including twice in the past three years.