Kiryat Shmona, Ramat Gan to meet in final

State Cup semis provide pair of close contests with Mac Haifa, Hap Rishon both falling 2-1.

Yaniv Katan 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Yaniv Katan 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa will have to wait at least one more year to end its State Cup drought after Ironi Kiryat Shmona recorded a 2-1 upset win in extra-time over the Greens at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Wednesday night to set up a meeting in the final against Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Haifa was a massive favorite to go on and lift the cup for the first time since 1998 entering Wednesday’s semifinals, losing just once over its past 21 Premier League matches.
The Greens took the lead through Dino Ndlovu’s penalty in the 23rd minute, but completely switched off after that, allowing Kiryat Shmona to equalize in the 71st minute through Ahmed Abed.
Kiryat Shmona remained in control in extra-time and scored a deserved winner courtesy of Osei Mawuli’s 111th-minute header, advancing to the final for the first time and punishing Haifa for a bitterly poor performance.
Ramat Gan will stand in the way of the reigning league champion in the final in three weeks time after defeating Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League 2-1 in the first semi thanks to Israel Zaguri’s stoppage-time goal.
“These types of matches are never easy,” said Ramat Gan coach Eli Cohen, who led the team to its only cup triumph exactly 10 years ago. “We were in complete control and finally we managed to score a late winner.
“I’m pleased with the win, but we haven’t got any time to celebrate because we already begin [Thursday] to prepare for Saturday’s showdown with Bnei Sakhnin. That is the real final for me and I hope that this win will give us a boost in the battle against relegation.”
It took Ramat Gan just 10 minutes to take the lead in the first semi of the evening.
The Rishon Lezion defense gifted Ran Yitzhak plenty of time and space in the box and he made no mistake with his header from close range.
However, the National League side showed its resilience by equalizing four minutes from the halftime break, with substitute Lior Asulin doing all the hard work before laying the ball off for Omer Atzili, who scored into the empty net.
Rishon Lezion deserved to be on level terms at the break, but Ramat Gan seized complete control in the second half and created numerous chances to win the encounter.
Rishon looked like it would hang on for extra time, but Ramat Gan made the most of their opponents’ tired legs and scored the winner one minute into stoppage time through Zaguri.