Hapoel TA eliminated by 2nd-tier Hapoel Rishon

Reds’ quest for 4th-straight cup ends; Ramat Gan and K8 also into semis, Beitar or Mac Haifa next.

Hapoel Rishon's Zoabi 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Rishon's Zoabi 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After three years, Hapoel Tel Aviv finally relinquished its hold on the State Cup on Tuesday night, suffering a shock 1-0 quarterfinal defeat to Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League at the Superland Stadium.
Hapoel became the first team in 73 years to lift the cup three seasons in a row last May and it hadn’t lost a cup encounter in regulation since April 2005, winning the competition in five of the past seven years and only being knocked out in penalties in 2008 and 2009.
However, Tel Aviv’s poor form in the Premier League inevitably caught up with it in the cup on Tuesday, with the Reds winning just one of their past eight league matches, failing to score a single goal from open play in their past 729 minutes on field.
Sofuan Zoabi scored Rishon’s winner in the 39th minute, making the most of an awful blunder by Hapoel’s aging defender Yigal Antebi.
Tel Aviv finally pressured Rishon in the closing 10 minutes, but ’keeper Daniel Machluf was sensational for the hosts, making stunning saves from Almog Cohen and Toto Tamuz, who had Machluf beaten in the 89th minute but still missed the target.
“This is a very tough moment,” said Tel Aviv coach Freddy David, who replaced Yossi Abuksis last month. “We let everyone down. We have 10 more matches left in the league and we will do our best to finish in third place and secure European qualification.”
Rishon will be joined by Hapoel Ramat Gan and Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the semifinals at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Ramat Gan ended the Cinderella cup run of third-division Asi Gilboa with a 2-1 win, while Kiryat Shmona defeated Bnei Sakhnin 3-1 at Doha Stadium.
The final semifinalist will be decided on Wednesday, with the floundering Beitar Jerusalem hosting Maccabi Haifa at Teddy Stadium.
Beitar stunned Maccabi Tel Aviv in the last 16, but just three days ago was humbled 5-0 by the yellow-and-blue in Premier League action.
Haifa, on the other hand, beat Maccabi Netanya 2-1 on Saturday for its 12th win in its past 15 league matches to take a stranglehold on the runners-up position.
In Sakhnin, Imoro Lukman gave the hosts a 14th-minute lead, but Kiryat Shmona turned the match on its head in five second-half minutes.
Shimon Abu Hazeira, playing for the first time in over a month after recovering from an injury, was introduced at halftime and needed just 50 seconds to net the equalizer.
Five minutes later, Shir Tzedek headed Kiryat Shmona into the lead and Abu Hazeira clinched the victory with an easy finish in the 70th minute.
At the picturesque stadium in the Ta’anakh region, Gilboa gave Ramat Gan a real run for its money, but it conceded against the run of play in the 33rd minute through lethal striker David Manga.
The hosts scored a deserved equalizer in the 58th minute, with Idan Shpasha converting from the penalty spot, but veteran midfielder Michael Zandberg netted Ramat Gan’s winner in the 68th minute to secure the 2003 cup winner a place in the semis for the first time since 2007.