Vidar Orn Kjartansson (left) celebrates with teammates Yossi Benayoun (center) and Eliel Peretz after scoring the opener in last night’s 2-1 win over Maccabi Petah Tikva in the second leg of the State Cup quarterfinals.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv remained on course to reach a third straight State Cup final on Wednesday night, while Beitar Jerusalem eked into the semifinals for the first time since 2009.
Maccabi and Beitar joined Ashdod SC, which secured its progress on Tuesday, and the only remaining National League side Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Maccabi, which lost to Maccabi Haifa in last season’s final after claiming the title with a win over Hapoel Beersheba the previous year, survived a scare by overcoming Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1 in the second leg of the quarterfinal tie in Netanya for a 3-1 win on aggregate.
Vidar Orn Kjartansson gave Tel Aviv the lead in the 50th minute, but Petah Tikva leveled the score just four minutes later, leaving it within one goal of advancing on away goals.
The visitors came close on several occasions, but lost Romario Pires to a second yellow card in the 81st minute and Oscar Scarione booked Tel Aviv’s place in the next round with a penalty in the 90th minute after Kjartansson was brought down in the box.
The draw for the semis will be held on Thursday, with the matches to take place at Haifa Stadium on April 5.
Beitar had to dig deep to secure its progress to the last four in Kiryat Shmona, losing the second leg 1-0, but advancing 2-1 on aggregate. Brazilian Mauricio gave the hosts the lead in the 22nd minute and the visitors found themselves under even more pressure when Itay Shechter was shown a red card for a reckless foul in the 78th minute.
However, they held on with 10 men, finally booking a return to the semifinals.
“I really don’t like to lose and this is an unpleasant defeat. But in the cup the only important thing is to advance to the next round,” said Beitar coach Sharon Mimer, who had won his first four matches over all competitions since replacing Ran Ben-Shimon. “We weren’t organized and we need to work hard to keep improving.”
Kiryat Shmona coach Tomer Kashtan is at least hoping his team can build on the victory to snap a five-match winless streak in league action.
“It is disappointing to lose the tie but we were the better team throughout the match,” explained Kashtan.
Hapoel Ramat Gan beat Hapoel Haifa 2-1, completing a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Ramat Gan is in third place in the National League, just two points from second place, which leads to promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season. Ramat Gan became the first team to lift the cup while playing in the second division in 2003 and won the competition once more in 2013 at the end of a campaign in which it was relegated from the top flight. After registering a 1-1 draw in the first leg on the road, Ramat Gan only needed a goalless deadlock to progress to the semis. The hosts took the lead through 19-year-old Amir Khalaila in the 77th minute, and despite losing Dudi Tiran to a red card five minutes later, opened a two-goal cushion following Liran Cohen’s strike with four minutes to play.
Maharan Lala handed Haifa a lifeline with his sensational 90th-minute strike, but the visitors couldn’t find a second goal which would have sent them through on away goals.
“Reaching the semifinals is something you dream about as a child,” said Ramat Gan coach Lior Zada. “To do so with a team from the National League is an amazing achievement.”