Hap TA edges Betar in State Cup quarters

Toto’s late penalty sinks former club; Ashdod visits Netanya following Gregory’s resignation.

OMRI KENDE, Hapoel Tel Aviv  (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
OMRI KENDE, Hapoel Tel Aviv
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv kept alive its hopes of claiming a second straight Premier League and State Cup double at Bloomfield Stadium on Tuesday night, advancing to the semifinals of the cup thanks to a controversial penalty by Toto Tamuz in the 89th minute.
Betar was the more dangerous team for much of the match, but lost Moshe Ben-Lulu to a red card in the 63rd minute and was unfortunate to concede a penalty three minutes from time when Tamuz throw himself at Eli Dasa’s outstretched leg.
“We played against a good opponent tonight and the most important thing is that we progressed,” Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said. “We have a big dream to win the double again and we will do everything we can to realize it.”
Hapoel looked to dictate the pace from the start, but Betar was happy to allow the hosts to control the possession and actually reached the better chances of the first half.
Tel Aviv’s touch was disappointingly poor and Jerusalem was unlucky not to find itself in the lead in the 18th minute.
Ben-Lulu was given far too much space on the edge of the area and his shot got the better of goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan, only to be denied by the crossbar.
Hapoel’s only real opportunity of the first half arrived in the 33rd minute, and even that was incidental, with Gal Shish’s cross from the left catching Betar ’keeper Ariel Harush off guard and hitting the woodwork.
Betar was also the more dangerous side to start the second half and in the 52nd minute once more came just centimeters away from netting the opener.
Bruchian’s corner was met by Ben- Lulu’s head, but the crossbar came to Tel Aviv’s rescue yet again.
Ben-Lulu was Betar’s most dangerous player for the first 62 minutes of the match before a rush of blood to the head severely dented his team’s hopes of advancing to the last four.
Already carrying a yellow card from earlier in the match, the Betar striker foolishly tugged at Avihai Yadin’s shirt from behind and referee Eli Hakhmon went by the book and showed Ben-Lulu his second yellow and sent him off.
Tel Aviv found it far easier to reach scoring opportunities against 10-men, but it still needed a contentious refereeing decision to claim the win.
In the 87th minute, Tamuz hurled himself at Eli Dasa’s outstretched leg and Hakhmon pointed to the spot and subsequently also sent off the defender.
Tamuz stepped up to smash in the penalty and the players almost came to blows at the end of the match after another heated showdown between the bitter rivals.
The three other semifinalists will be decided on Wednesday.
In the main match of the day, Hapoel Haifa hosts Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, looking to break the Greens’ stronghold over the derby.
Hapoel hasn’t won a league derby in almost 10 years, losing eight of its last 10 matches against Maccabi since beating it 3-1 on May 19, 2001.
However, Hapoel fans have fond memories of the last time the teams met in the cup six years ago.
After a dramatic 3-3 extra-time draw, Hapoel claimed a 3-2 victory in a penalty shootout in the round of 16 when Idan Tal missed Maccabi’s fifth attempt.
Maccabi will also need to recover from the disappointment of Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Maccabi Netanya, which saw its lead at the top of the league standings cut to a mere two points ahead of the five-match championship playoffs.
In the other all-Premier League tie on Wednesday, Netanya hosts Ashdod SC, which will be guided by Yossi Mizrahi for the first time following the resignation of John Gregory on Monday.
There were high expectations from the Englishman when he joined Ashdod at the start of the season, but the pressure had been building at the club in recent months after a run of disappointing results.
Ashdod’s last league win came over three months ago, with the team losing eight of its past 12 contests, including a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of lowly Hapoel Ashkelon on Saturday.
The humbling defeat left Ashdod just four points clear of Bnei Sakhnin and Ashkelon in the fight against relegation, and following days of intensifying rumors that Mizrahi had already agreed to join the side next season, Gregory decided it was time to go.
“It has been a very difficult nine months,” Gregory said. “I thought about this situation quite a few times but the Englishman in me doesn’t allow me to walk away. The English tend to stand and fight. But I felt that it was in the best interest of everybody to leave. The club comes before anybody.
“The speculation around a new coach coming next season made me sit and think about it. If I’m not going to be here next year I might as well go now.”
Mizrahi followed Avi Nimni out of Maccabi Tel Aviv in January after an erratic start to the season and will be beginning his third tenure at Ashdod on Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, Hapoel Ra’anana, the only remaining National League team in the competition, hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona.