Kiryat Shmona, Ramat Gan all set to duel

Two of country’s less-heralded clubs look to capitalize on trophy chance in State Cup final.

Ironi Kiryat Shmona's Shimon Abu Haziera 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona's Shimon Abu Haziera 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Ramat Gan face off in the State Cup final on Wednesday night hoping to transform their seasons with a rare hardware triumph.
After winning an historic championship last season, Kiryat Shmona is set to end the current campaign in a respectable fourth or fifth place.
However, should it claim a first cup on Wednesday, it’s season would instantly turn into a resounding success and cement the club’s place among the country’s elite.
Ramat Gan, on the other hand, is still coming to terms with being relegated to the National League and is looking to salvage something from this campaign by lifting a second cup in club history and a first since 2003.
Kiryat Shmona stunned Maccabi Haifa in the semis to reach its first ever final and is the clear favorite on Wednesday, despite coach Barak Bachar’s claims.
“We don’t consider ourselves the favorites,” Bachar said on Tuesday.
“This match will be just as difficult as the semi against Haifa.
“We don’t have a long history in the top flight and it would be amazing for the city and the club to win a title for a second straight year.”
Ramat Gan avoided the big guns on its way to the final, overcoming Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the second division in the semis.
With both Kiryat Shmona and Ramat Gan having relatively small fan bases, the Israel Football Association made the unprecedented decision to move the final from National Stadium in Ramat Gan to the new stadium in Netanya, which is still unlikely to be full.
“We have an opportunity to end the season on a sweet note,” said Ramat Gan coach Eli Cohen, who was also at the helm when the club won the cup 10 years ago.
“We believe in ourselves even though we are the underdog. There is some concern that the players will be slightly down after being relegated, but this is an outstanding chance to take something away from this season.”
LOCAL SOCCER On TV: State Cup final: Ironi Kiryat Shmona vs Hapoel Ramat Gan (live on Sport5 at 8 p.m.)