Maccabi Haifa's dream of an unprecedented treble ended in dramatic fashion Wednesday night as Bnei Yehuda defeated the greens 2-0 after extra time in the State Cup semifinal at the national stadium in Ramat Gan.
Bnei Yehuda, whose last cup triumph came in 1981, will face Hapoel Tel Aviv in the final on May 9th after the reds beat Bnei Sakhnin 2-0 in the first semifinal of the day.
Haifa had already won the league title and the Toto cup and was hoping to also lift the State Cup to cap a perfect local season.
"It's a pity we lost," said Haifa coach Roni Levy after the match. "We had an excellent game but lacked concentration in front of goal."
Bnei Yehuda coach Nitzan Shirazi cried with joy at the end of the match and said, "We played with an enormous pride tonight and we beat the best team in the country. I'm so happy we're in the final."
Maccabi Haifa seized the initiative from the first whistle and could have scored as early as the third minute. Bnei Yehuda keeper Vincent Enyeama failed to clear a Haifa cross, but Shlomi Arbitman couldn't take advantage of the mistake and headed the ball over the bar.
Bnei Yehuda didn't settle for defending and also had its fair share of scoring chances. Its best chance of the half came in the 39th minute when Roni Gafni's 30-meter screamer was just tipped over the bar by keeper Nir Davidovitch.
Both teams continued to play attacking soccer in the second half with Haifa striker Roberto Colautti coming closest to scoring in the 58th minute after his gentle deflection from the corner kick was only denied by the post.
The match was almost decided by both teams in the final minutes of regulation, but neither could score and the match went into extra time.
The decisive goal of the match came in the 103rd minute. Reoven Oved ran almost the entire length of the pitch before laying the ball off to Gafni who left Davidovitch with no chance.
Haifa threw everybody forward in search of the equalizer, but Bnei Yehuda withstood the barrage and in the last minute of extra time put the match beyond doubt.
Haifa keeper Davidovitch left his goal and ran forward for his team's corner kick leaving Bnei Yehuda substitute Eli Biton with an easy goal into an empty net.
Earlier in the evening, Hapoel Tel Aviv comfortably defeated Bnei Sakhnin 2-0 with two second-half goals in the space of three minutes.
Hapoel dominated the match throughout and, despite only taking the lead in the 58th minute, was never in danger of not advancing to the final.
Tel Aviv dictated the play during the first half, but lacked a killer instinct in front of goal.
Hapoel finally got the breakthrough it needed after Elyaniv Barda threaded a pass to Baruch Dego who shot beyond Sakhnin keeper Meir Cohen to give his team the lead.
Tel Aviv immediately pushed forward in search of a second goal and soon after the reds doubled their lead. Dego accurately crossed the ball to Ilya Yeborian who headed the ball in with ease.
Sakhnin tried to pull back a goal in the remaining 30 minutes, but was helpless against the Hapoel defense, leaving the reds to cruise to their first cup final in six years.
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