Preview: State Cup semifinals feature contrasting clashes

Maccabi or Beitar will be firm favorites to lift the cup in the final in Jerusalem next month.

By
April 4, 2017 04:27
2 minute read.
Bnei Yehuda is hoping Argentinian midfielder Pedro Galvan can score another memorable goal for the c

Bnei Yehuda is hoping Argentinian midfielder Pedro Galvan can score another memorable goal for the club when it faces Hapoel Ramat Gan tonight in the State Cup semifinals in Netanya. (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)

 
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While Wednesday’s semifinal between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem is garnering all the attention, this season’s first State Cup finalist will already be decided on Tuesday when Bnei Yehuda faces Hapoel Ramat Gan of the National League in Netanya.

Maccabi or Beitar will be firm favorites to lift the cup in the final in Jerusalem next month, regardless of the result of their semifinal showdown in Haifa on Wednesday. But for Bnei Yehuda and Ramat Gan, Tuesday’s semi not only presents a distraction from the pressures of league action, but also a rare chance to add to their humble trophy cabinets.

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Bnei Yehuda is just six points above the Premier League relegation zone after falling to a 2-0 defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Hapoel Ashkelon remained in last place following Monday’s 0-0 draw against Ashdod SC, moving tied on 22 points with Hapoel Kfar Saba.

Bnei Yehuda only barely avoided an exit at the first hurdle in the cup, with an 80th-minute equalizer from Almog Buzaglo tying the score at 3-3 against Hapoel Acre of the National League in the round of 32. Bnei Yehuda went on to prevail 4-3 on spot kicks.

Bnei Yehuda made the most of a comfortable draw after that, thrashing Ashkelon 4-0 before registering a 6-1 aggregate win over Ashdod in the quarterfinals.

The team from Hatikvah neighborhood in south Tel Aviv got lucky in the draw for the semis as well, avoiding Maccabi and Beitar, and is hoping to advance to its first final since 2010, with the last of its two cup triumphs coming back in 1981.

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“I remember sitting in the stands watching Bnei Yehuda win the cup in 1981. My dream is to repeat those scenes as the coach,” said Nissan Yehezkel. “If we reach the final we will not let the cup get away.”

Ramat Gan sits in third place in the National League, two points from the top two who will be promoted to the top flight at the end of the season. Ramat Gan first met an opponent from the Premier League in the quarters, overcoming Hapoel Haifa 3-2 on aggregate. Ramat Gan became the only team to win the cup while playing in the National League in 2003 and took the trophy once more 10 years later at the end of a season in which it was relegated to the second division.

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