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
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
“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
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
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.).