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Photo by: Adi Avishai
Haifa hopes to send off Levy with finals bid
By ALLON SINAI
02/05/2012
State cup: Greens face Ashdod while Hapoel Tel Aviv also looks to salvage season vs Ramat Hasharon.
 
It is not easy being Elisha Levy these days.

After guiding Maccabi Haifa to two championships, two State Cup finals and the group stage of the Champions League and Europa League over the past four seasons, Levy was told last week that he will not be continuing at the club.

A disappointing season, which currently sees the team in sixth place in the Premier League standings, led owner Jacob Shahar to sign Haifa’s legendry midfielder Reuven Atar in place of the much-maligned Levy.

Despite his overall success, the nature of his profession means Levy’s tenure with the Greens will be remembered by the way it ends, making Haifa’s State Cup semifinal against Ashdod SC at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Wednesday night all the more significant.

In the first semifinal of the evening, Hapoel Tel Aviv plays Ironi Ramat Hasharon.

Haifa is desperate to win the cup not only because it wants to salvage something from a poor campaign, but also so it can finally end the drought it has endured since last claiming Israel’s top cup competition in 1998.

“I don’t want to hear that because of my departure you are less motivated,” Levy told his players ahead of the semis.

“We must not use that as an excuse.

“If you continue to play the way you have recently we won’t reach the final. I don’t want to read in the media players complaining that the coaching change is affecting their play.

“Now is the time to unite forces and try and win the cup.”

Haifa has fond memories of the last time it faced Ashdod in the cup, winning 5-0 in the semis on the way to its last triumph in the competition 14 years ago.

While Haifa’s form has tailed off in recent weeks, with the Greens losing two straight league matches, Ashdod’s campaign has completely derailed in the past two months, with Yossi Mizrahi’s team winless in its last nine league games.

“We know who we are facing, but we are also a pretty good team,” said Ashdod striker Idan Shriki.

Hapoel Tel Aviv will be looking to move within one victory of becoming the first team in 73 years to win the cup on three consecutive occasions when it plays Ramat Hasharon in the first semi of the day.

Shiye Feigenbaum, Hapoel Tel Aviv’s all-time leading scorer and current Ramat Hasharon coach, will be looking to deny his former team on Wednesday, with Ramat Hasharon also aiming to avenge its defeat in the semis to Tel Aviv two years ago.

“We haven’t lost to Hapoel so far this season and I hope that continues,” said Feigenbaum.

“With all the problems it has had, Tel Aviv is still in second place and in the cup semis. We will have to play a smart game because our entire season will be on the line.”

On TV: State Cup Semifinal: Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Hapoel Ramat Hasharon (live on Sport5 at 6 p.m.); Maccabi Haifa vs Ashdod SC (live on Sport5 at 8:30 p.m.).
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