Hap TA, Mac Haifa advance to semifinals

Reds overcome Mac Netanya 1-0 on road, Greens top Upper Nazareth 2-0 at home.

ELROEI COHEN 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa remained on course for a second straight meeting in the State Cup final after living up to their billing as favorites on Tuesday night and advancing to the semifinals.
Hapoel, which beat Haifa 1-0 in last year’s final to claim the cup for a second consecutive year and for the fourth time in six seasons, had the far tougher job on Tuesday, but eventually overcame Maccabi Netanya 1-0 on the road courtesy of Elroei Cohen’s superb solo effort in the 59th minute.
Haifa, which hasn’t won the cup since 1998, encountered little trouble against National League struggler Hapoel Upper Nazareth, winning 2-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium thanks to goals from Alon Turgeman (6) and Yaniv Katan (46).
Tel Aviv and Haifa joined Ashdod SC and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, who advanced to the last four on Monday. The draw for the semis will be held this coming Sunday and the matches will take place at National Stadium in Ramat Gan in three weeks time.
Netanya had reached the semis three times in the past five years, but hasn’t played in a final since last winning the cup in 1978 and it will have to wait at least one more year before ending the drought after a disappointing home defeat to Hapoel.
The visitors almost got on the board with the match just over a minute old, with Netanya goalkeeper Amir Edri spreading himself to save Walid Badier’s close range attempt.
Mirko Oremus came centimeters away from giving Tel Aviv the lead in the 16th minute when his left-footed curler just missed the left upright, but Hapoel ultimately took a deserved lead in the 59th minute.
Cohen picked up the ball at the halfway line and surged up the field unchallenged before releasing a blistering shot from the edge of the area.
Omer Damari should have clinched the win in the 76th minute, but he inexplicably sent his shot wide with an empty net at his mercy after rounding Edri.
The miss almost cost Hapoel dearly, with Oremus being sent off two minutes later for a second bookable offense, resulting in Netanya throwing caution to the wind in the final 10 minutes.
Premier League leading scorer Ahmed Saba twice came close to equalizing, but Hapoel held on for a precious win which keeps alive its hopes of becoming the first team in 73 years to win the cup three seasons in a row.
“Winning such a match in Netanya really shows the character of the team,” Tel Aviv coach Nitzan Shirazi said.
“Netanya came close after we went down to 10 men and I’m happy that towards the end luck was also on our side.”
Haifa entered its quarterfinal at Kiryat Eliezer as a massive favorite and it effectively clinched the win when it took the lead in the sixth minute.
A nifty team move ended with Katan squaring the ball for Turgeman for an easy finish.
Turgeman returned the favor in first half stoppage time and Katan did not squander the chance, coolly slotting in Haifa’s second goal and putting the match to bed by halftime.
“We did our job tonight and now our goal is to win the cup,” said Katan, who is desperate to lift the cup after losing three times in the final with Haifa, including twice in the past three years.