Local Soccer: Betar, Maccabi Haifa to semifinals

Netanya escapes with victory over Sakhnin while Hakoach edges Ashdod on penalties.

betar aviram bruchian (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar aviram bruchian
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa, Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya will all be in Thursday's State Cup semifinal draw after safely coming through the last eight on Wednesday. Haifa had the easiest time, crushing National League club Ahi Nazareth 4-0 on the road. Betar had some nervous moments but won 2-1 at National League Hapoel Kfar Saba. Netanya needed extra-time to defeat Bnei Sakhnin 1-0 at home, while in the final game on Wednesday night, Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan booked its place to play at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on May 13 with a penalty shootout victory at Ashdod SC. At Nazareth, Haifa was in complete control right from the start and wrapped up the win by the break. In the 30th minute, John Culma's bullet was denied by the upright, but Thembinkosi Fanteni was first to the rebound and gave the visitors the lead. On the stroke of halftime, Haifa all but clinched the win. Peter Masilela broke down the left flank and squared the ball perfectly for Yaniv Katan who had no trouble smashing in the opener. Substitute Alon Harazi scored Haifa's third in the 82nd minute, and five minutes later Fanteni grabbed his second of the match to cap the victory. "We were under pressure as we were facing a weaker team, but we made it easy from the start," Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. "We're going through a good period at the moment and we showed that we can play soccer tonight." In Netanya, Dedi Ben-Dayan came to his team's rescue once again on Wednesday, scoring the winner for the hosts in the 110th minute of the match after neither team managed to score in the first 90 minutes. Netanya has won each of its three cup matches this season 1-0, with Ben-Dayan netting the winner each and every time. On Wednesday, Netanya struggled for much of the match and only began to find its rhythm in the final 20 minutes of regulation. However, the team squandered its opportunities and Sakhnin was happy for the match to go into an extra 30 minutes. Extra-time was dominated by the hosts and 10 minutes before the encounter was to be decided by penalties, Ben-Dayan found the back of the net. Klemi Saban crossed the ball from the right and Ben-Dayan escaped the Sakhin defense and headed Netanya into the last four. "We really didn't play well, but the important thing is that we've advanced to the semifinals," Ben-Dayan said. Netanya coach Lothar Matthaus was extremely unhappy with his team's performance. "We only started to play after 70 minutes," Matthaus said. "This is a cup game and the most important thing is the result. But I'm not just satisfied with the result, I also like to see a nice football game." In Kfar Saba, Betar controlled the match from the kick off, but didn't take advantage of its many chances and the score was tied at 0-0 at the interval. The visitors finally broke the deadlock in the 57th minute after Aviram Bruchian laid the ball off to Amit Ben-Shushan to give Betar the lead. Jerusalem seemed to be in complete control, but five minutes later Kfar Saba tied the score. Hen Ezra crossed the ball from the right and Azaucha Odinka was well placed to head in the equalizer. Betar took some time to recover from the shock of conceding, but in the 76th minute it regained the lead. After a nice move in the box, Ben-Shushan blasted his shot against the crossbar and Barak Itzhaki was perfectly placed to tuck in the winner. Kfar Saba had its chances in the closing minutes, but Jerusalem held on to keep its cup defense on track. "This was a once in a lifetime match for some of Kfar Saba's players and that's what made it so difficult for us," Betar coach Reuven Atar said. "You need to be patient in these types of matches and you also need a little luck." In Ashdod, the hosts grabbed the lead in the 35th minute through a Yossi Ofir header, but in first-half stoppage-time Gal Levy equalized from a free kick. The hosts thought they had clinched the win in the 78th after Lubomir Kubica volleyed Ashdod into the lead just two minutes after coming on as a substitute. However, three minutes from time the Ashdod defense couldn't stop Joseph Nwafor, who tied the score and sent the match into extra-time. After neither team managed to score in the additional 30 minutes the encounter went to penalty kicks. Ashdod's third kicker Dimitar Makriev was the first to miss and after his teammate Baruch Dego failed to score as well, Hakoach's fourth kicker Idan Weitzman stepped up and sent his team into the last four.