Hapoel Tel Aviv wins 3rd straight State Cup 370 .
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv became the first team in 73 years to win the State Cup three
years in a row on Tuesday night after Nosa Igiebor scored two minutes into
stoppage time to give the Reds a 2-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa in the final at
National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
After a dreary first half, the match burst
into life when Mirko Oremus netted the opener for Hapoel in the 58th minute,
only for Haifa’s Dele Yampolsky to equalize just four minutes later with a
The showdown seemed to be heading into extra time, but
Haifa’s defense switched off in the 92nd minute, allowing Salim Toama to pick
out Igiebor, who slotted the winner beyond Nir Davidovich to give Hapoel its
fifth cup triumph in seven years.
“This has been a crazy season,” said
Hapoel coach Nitzan Shirazi, who joined the club in January in place of the
fired Dror Kashtan.
“I couldn’t turn down Hapoel’s offer. I knew I was
entering a crazy situation, but I didn’t know how crazy.
“I don’t think
any other club in Israel could have overcome what we did.”
continued their on-going protest against owner Eli Tabib on Tuesday, despite
Tabib already announcing that he wants to sell the club.
Abutbul, whose season was cut short through injury, attacked the owner over the
weekend, saying he must leave, and despite being suspended immediately by the
club, he lifted the cup together with captain Walid Badier.
players wanted me to lift the cup with them so I did,” Abutbul said. “I can’t
put into words what we accomplished.
“With everything that has gone on we
still managed to finish in second place and win the cup. This is a big
club and will always be a big club.”
Haifa’s third defeat in the cup
final in four years is an especially bitter pill to swallow for both the club
and its departing coach. Elisha Levy was hoping to leave the Greens on a high
after four seasons at the club, but he once more failed to lift the one trophy
missing from his collection, which also means Haifa will not play in Europe next
season after only ending the Premier League in fifth place.
sends Maccabi Netanya, which finished in fourth, into the Europa League as Tel
Aviv also ended the league campaign as runner-up.
“It was we who lost the
cup, Hapoel didn’t win it,” said Levy. “I feel bad for the players who gave
their all. It wasn’t a great game but it was a real fight. It is a shame
we conceded so close to the final whistle. We can only regret our
mistakes, but that is sport for you.”
It would be no exaggeration to
write that the first half of Tuesday’s final was as dull as any in the history
of the cup final.
The 37,000 fans in attendance had to wait 17 minutes to
finally see a first shot on goal, with Yaniv Katan firing straight at Hapoel keeper Apoula Edel.
That would prove to be the only shot on goal either
team registered in the first 45 minutes, with both Hapoel and Haifa not willing
to take any risks.
The match needed a moment of inspiration or a mistake
to open up and the breakthrough finally arrived in the 58th minute.
Gordana stole the ball off Katan in the center of the field and threaded it
through to Oremus, who made no mistake with only Davidovich to
Haifa’s Levy quickly made a change and his substitution paid off
Less than two minutes after coming on in place of the
ineffective Mohammad Ghadir, Yampolsky climbed above Hapoel’s Yigal Antebi and
headed the ball beyond Edel.
Haifa’s quick equalizer resulted in both
teams going into their shell once more, but just when it seemed that extra time
was inevitable, Igiebor came up with the winner, sparking delirium among the