Maccabi Petah Tikva midfielder Gidi Kanyuk (right) celebrates after scoring past Beitar Jerusalem goalkeeper Boris Kleyman (center) during last night’s 2-0 win in the Toto Cup semifinal in Netanya..
(photo credit: DANNY MAARON)
Maccabi Petah Tikva and Ironi Kiryat Shmona will meet in the Toto Cup final in three weeks after claiming comfortable wins in the semis on Wednesday.
Petah Tikva beat Beitar Jerusalem 2-0 in Netanya thanks to goals from Gidi Kanyuk (32) and Yuval Jakobovich (59). Petah Tikva is targeting its fourth Toto Cup in total, but a first since 2004.
Beitar was aiming to move within one victory of its first title in six years, but it continued its poor form of recent weeks and lost once more to Petah Tikva. Jerusalem has been beaten just once in its past nine Premier League games, but that defeat also came against Petah Tikva.
“We didn’t deserve to win,” said Beitar coach Slobodan Drapic. “Maccabi Petah Tikva deserve to be in the final. We didn’t show up. The expectations from the team have grown and we haven’t played well in a few matches. However, I’m sure the players understand that and will improve in our coming matches.”
Kiryat Shmona beat Bnei Yehuda 3-0 in Petah Tikva in the first semi and is targeting its third Toto Cup in the past six years after also lifting the trophy in 2011 and 2012.
The star of the match was a player who is only on trial at Kiryat Shmona.
Nigerian Austin Amutu was given an opportunity to prove he deserves a contract until the end of the season and made the very most of it, showing a nose for goal with two composed finishes.
The 22-year-old found the back of the net in the 38th and 45th minutes to give Kiryat Shmona a promising lead at the break.
Bnei Yehuda had a chance to get back into the game in the 71st minute, but Pedro Galvan slipped as he was taking a penalty and goalkeeper Mahadi Zuabi saved the shot. Ofir Mizrahi clinched the win eight minutes later.
“We held a talk with all the players yesterday and told everyone that they are staying until the end of the season and that helped restore some order,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Salah Hasarma, with forward Ahmed Abed being linked in recent days with a move to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the January transfer window. “I’m happy the players came and gave their all,” added the coach, with Kiryat Shmona winning just one of its past nine league matches, entering Wednesday on the back of a 5-0 defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv four days earlier.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv held on Wednesday its annual ceremony in memory of one of Israel’s greatest players and all-time legends in yellowand- blue, Avi Cohen. Cohen passed away five years ago after suffering a fatal head injury in a motorbike accident near the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange.
The youth clubs gathered on Wednesday by the memorial site named in honor of Avi Cohen at the Kiryat Shalom training facility where youth department director Nir Levine spoke about Cohen.
Dorit and Tamir, Avi’s widow and son, were also present at the ceremony.
Dorit told the youngsters about Avi’s youth days with Maccabi Tel Aviv and spoke to them about who he was as a person. The last part of the memorial was conducted by Tamir who himself was once a player with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Yehuda Livni, the longtime veteran youth department coach who guided both Avi and Tamir and told stories about their time growing up at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Cohen began his career at Maccabi Tel-Aviv in 1975, where he won the Premier League and State Cup double in the 1976/77 season, as well as another championship in the 1978/79 campaign.
In July 1979, he made a shock move to Liverpool, winning a championship and a European Cup at the club.