Hapoel Beersheba striker Elyaniv Barda (right) and Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Nikola Mitrovic.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba remained on course to meet in the State Cup final on Tuesday after being kept apart in the draw for the semifinals held at Israel Football Association headquarters in Ramat Gan.
Maccabi, seeking its first cup since 2005, was drawn to face first-time semifinalist Ahi Nazareth of the National League, while Beersheba, which is targeting its first title since 1997, was paired with Hapoel Afula of the second division.
The semifinals will be held on April 28 and 29, with the final to take place at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa on May 20.
The winner of the cup will qualify for the Europa League next season.
Should either Maccabi or Beersheba lift the trophy, fourth place in the Premier League standings will also be sufficient to reach the Europa League qualifiers.
The likes of Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa will be crossing their fingers that will indeed be the case, as it seems unlikely they will finish the season any higher than fourth.
Beitar’s 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday moved it up to fourth, nine points back of Beersheba. Only an unlikely combination of results in the final weekend of the regular season will deny Jerusalem a place in the championship playoffs.
Unless Beitar loses by at least three goals to Hapoel Ra’anana and both Maccabi Petah Tikva and Maccabi Haifa win, it will finish in the top six.
Petah Tikva and Haifa also have their fate in their own hands.
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s second loss in three matches kept the title race wide open, with the yellow-and-blue leading Ironi Kiryat Shmona by four points and Beersheba one point further back.
“Everybody is disappointed but the team didn’t deserve to lose!” tweeted Maccabi coach Pako Ayestaran. “The team finished the game pushing forward and we’ll stand up!”