A Lior Rafaelov brace helped Maccabi Haifa to a 3-1 victory over Hapoel Haifa in
the quarterfinals of the State Cup at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Wednesday night,
taking the Greens to within two wins of a first cup triumph since
While Maccabi has dominated the Premier League over much of the
past decade, winning six of the past 10 championships, Jacob Shahar’s club has
recorded little success in the cup since the turn of the century.
has only reached the final at National Stadium in Ramat Gan twice since the last
time it lifted the trophy 13 years ago, losing in 2002 and 2009.
time a Haifa derby was played in the cup, Hapoel ended Maccabi’s hopes of a
league and cup double, winning in a penalty shootout in the 2005 last 16
However, despite trailing to Eden Ben-Basat’s 30th minute penalty on
Wednesday, the Greens came back to claim a well-deserved victory thanks to goals
from Idan Vered (38) and Rafaelov (59, 71).
“I’m delighted we won
tonight,” said Rafaelov, whose team also holds a two-point lead at the top of
the league standings and is still dreaming of winning the double for the first
time since 1991.
“We are facing a very critical month. We learned from
last season and we are far more ready this time.”
Haifa will be joined in
the semis by Hapoel Tel Aviv, which beat Betar Jerusalem 1-0 on Tuesday, and
Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Maccabi Netanya, who came through some tense moments to
advance to the last four on Wednesday.
At Kiryat Eliezer, the hosts got
off to an encouraging start and took the lead in the 30th minute when Ben- Basat
scored from the spot after being brought down in the box by Shai
However, Hapoel’s lead lasted for just eight minutes, with Vered
equalizing with a superb volley that left goalkeeper Tvrtko Kale rooted to his
In the 59th minute, Maccabi moved into the lead.
shot hit Oshri Roash’s hand and the midfielder stepped up to convert the spot
kick and complete the comeback.
Rafaelov clinched the victory 12 minutes
later, firing an exquisite volley into the bottom left corner to maintain
Maccbai’s stranglehold on the local derby.
Earlier Wednesday, Kiryat
Shmona dominated its match at Hapoel Ra’anana, the last remaining National
League club in the competition, but had to wait until the 59th minute before it
scored the winner in the 1-0 victory.
Wiyam Amashe picked the ball up
just past the halfway line and surged forward untouched before releasing an
unstoppable effort from the edge of the area.
The visitors had little
trouble holding on to their lead in the remainder of the match and progressed to
the cup semis for the first time in club history, continuing a dream season,
which has already seen the team lift the Toto Cup and enter the Premier League
championship playoffs in fourth place.
“We played outstanding soccer,”
Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon said. “We might not have managed to translate
our performance to goals, but this was a convincing display.”
also controlled its home match against Ashdod SC, but the hosts needed a penalty
shootout before they eventually advanced to the semis.
New Ashdod coach
Yossi Mizrahi, who began his third tenure at the club after replacing John
Gregory on Tuesday, didn’t make any significant changes to the lineup, but the
players were clearly affected by having a new coach at the helm.
Makriev gave Ashdod the lead after just five minutes, translating his team’s
early pressure into a goal after a mistake by Netanya defender Mariano
Ashdod could have increased its lead in the remainder of the
first half, but its failure to do so would come back to haunt it after the
Netanya seized control of the field and began to threaten Ashdod’s
goal on a consistent basis.
The equalizer finally arrived 10 minutes from
time, with Nir Nahum putting through Firas Mugrabi, who coolly slotted the ball
under Ashdod ’keeper Ofir Marziano.
Netanya should have clinched the win
before extra-time, but Dele Yampolsky squandered a golden opportunity in the
The hosts were the far more dangerous team in extra-time as
well, coming centimeters away from taking the lead in the 103rd minute when
Mugrabi hit the post with his shot.
Netanya supporters were surely
worried their team’s inability to convert its chances would come back to bite
it, but the hosts would dominate the penalty shootout, with goalkeeper Carlos
Arias saving two spot kicks and captain Orel Dgani converting his side’s fourth
attempt to clinch a 4-1 win.
“This win makes our Chag very happy,” said
Netanya coach Reuven Atar, who has exceeded all expectations this season,
guiding his team to the cup semis just days after taking it to the championship
“We played horrendously in the first half, but our
substitutions made the difference and I’m delighted to see my players so happy.”