Hapoel Haifa striker Alon Turgeman celebrates after scoring his team’s equalizer in last night’s 1-1 draw with Maccabi Haifa, sending Hapoel through to the State Cup semifinals.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Haifa continued its dream season by advancing to a first State Cup semifinal since 2004 on Thursday night, drawing 1-1 with Maccabi Haifa in the second leg of their quarterfinal tie to qualify on away goals.
Hapoel erased a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 in the first leg hosted by Maccabi three weeks ago and came back from behind once more on Thursday. Alon Turgeman’s 45th-minute goal canceled out Shlomi Azulay’s 21st-minute opener.
Hapoel Haifa, which hasn’t won the cup since 1974, joined Beitar Jerusalem, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Ra’anana in the semifinals.
The draw for the last-four will be held on Monday.
“I’m really proud of our players,” said Hapoel Haifa coach Nir Klinger, whose team is in fourth place in the Premier League standings, five points back of first place. “We managed to overcome all the difficulties that we had this week after losing 4-0 to Maccabi Tel Aviv last weekend and also during this match.
“It wasn’t simple to recover from what happened last weekend, but we have special players,” added Klinger. “I told the players after that loss that we will cry together and we will laugh together, and tonight we will laugh.”
Thursday’s result means Maccabi Haifa will miss out on European competition once more next season. With just one European tie to its name over the last four seasons, Haifa was desperate to qualify for continental competition by winning the cup after its disastrous league campaign has left it in 10th position.
The Greens stunned Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-0 to progress to the quarterfinals, but couldn’t overcome their cross-town rival and can already turn their focus to rebuilding ahead of next season, although they have yet to officially secure their top-flight status, sitting only three spots and eight points above the relegation zone.