Local Soccer: Betar defeats Netanya in cup semis

Hapoel Tel Aviv reaches final after defeating Betar/Shimshon on penalties at Ramat Gan.

Hapoel Tel Aviv 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israeli soccer has got its classic cup final. Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv advanced to the State Cup final on Wednesday night at National Stadium in Ramat Gan to set up a mouth watering encounter on May 13. Betar, which is seeking its first cup triumph in 19 years and first league and cup double in club history, defeated Maccabi Natanya 1-0 after extra-time thanks to Yoav Ziv's 102nd minute goal. The win proved to be at least some respite for Betar after the pitch invasion which marred Sunday's league game against Maccabi Herzliya at Teddy Stadium. The club will, however, face an Israel Football Association disciplinary tribunal on Thursday at 12 p.m. when punishment will be dished out. Hapoel Tel Aviv moved a step closer to becoming the first team in 69 years to lift the cup three years in a row on Wednesday, edging third division Betar/Shimshon Tel Aviv 9-8 in a dramatic penalty shootout after extra-time ended in a 1-1 stalemate. This year's final will be a repeat of the 1999 and 2000 finals, which were both won by Tel Aviv on penalties. Netanya had the better of the early exchanges, but Betar's Romulo had the first good chance of the match in the 14th minute. The Brazilian found himself with only 'keeper Liran Shtrauber to beat after a good team move, but he shot poorly, failing to even hit the target. Despite the fact that Jerusalem's control over the proceedings grew as the first half drew to a close, the reigning league champion never really threatened the Maccabi goal and the half ended in a goalless deadlock. Immediately after the interval Netanya had an ideal opportunity to take a shock lead. Tomer Ben-Yosef was spotted to have handled the ball in the box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Itai Shechter stepped up to take the kick and was denied by Kale not once, but twice, after the Croatian saved the forward's penalty and subsequent shot from the rebound. Netanya continued to press forward after the miss, but Betar soon seized control and had a superb chance to claim the opener. In the 70th minute, despite having plenty of time and space Amit Ben-Shushan failed to get the better of Shtrauber, with the Netanya 'keeper winning the crucial one-on-one encounter. Nine minutes later it was Maccabi's turn to have a chance to win the match in regulation, but Awudu Okocha's shot was well saved by Kale and the match went into extra time. In the 102nd minute the deadlock was finally broken. Yoav Ziv wriggled through the Netanya defense and gave Shtrauber no chance with his shot. The goal broke Netanya's spirit and Jerusalem edged ever closer to an historic double. Hapoel Tel Aviv 1, Betar/Shimshon Tel Aviv 1 (9-8 penalty shoot out) Hapoel was the more dangerous side at the start of the encounter and after just three minutes Fabio Junior squandered an excellent chance, releasing a weak shot towards goal from five meters out. In the 26th minute Dimitar Telkiyski should have really given the cup holder the lead, but his shot wasn't accurate enough and Betar/Shimshon 'keeper Yaniv Mizrahi saved the ball superbly. Ido Eksbard had Betar/Shimshon's only chance of the first half in the 34th minute, with the third division team struggling to create scoring opportunities throughout the match. Hapoel began to dominate the possession in the second half and six minutes after the interval came tantalizingly close to taking the lead after Bibres Natcho hit the upright from 20 meters out. In the 66th minute the Reds would, however, manage to break the deadlock thanks to Baruch Dego. Reuven Oved's shot was saved by Mizrahi and Dego took advantage of the ensuing melee to tuck in the opener. The cup holder seemed to be in cruise control after going in front, but Betar/Shimshon would stun its prestigious opponent nine minutes from time. Haim Shabo's shot hit the crossbar and Avi Tadesa crossed for Morad Elian, who headed the ball in from the goal line. Betar/Shimshon was content with holding out for penalties in the overtime and nearly paid the price for its defensive orientation. In the 104th minute Telkiyski's header was just high and four minutes later the Bulgarian was only denied by another acrobatic Mizrahi save, and the match would be decided by penalties. Telkiyski missed Hapoel's second kick, but Vincent Enyeama denied Betar/Shimshon's Eliran Elkayam in the subsequent kick and the score remained tied at 1-1. Hapoel and Betar/Shimshon each scored their next seven penalties, with Enyeama giving the reds a 9-8 lead with a cool finish. The Nigerian keeper would then take his place in goal and save Sami Elyakim's shot to book Hapoel's place in the final. "Enyeama told me in the final training session ahead of the match that we would be in the final. He lived up to his word," Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said. "My players showed a lot of character and the most important thing is that we're in the final."