Soccer: Betar concentrating on Cup semis

Jerusalem puting pitch invasion scandal aside ahead of Mac Netanya clash.

betar hapoel 298 88 (photo credit: asaf kliger)
betar hapoel 298 88
(photo credit: asaf kliger)
History will be on the line in the State Cup semifinals on Wednesday at National Stadium in Ramat Gan. Betar Jerusalem faces Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Tel Aviv plays Betar/Shimshon Tel Aviv, with each of the teams to rewrite their clubs' records books should they win. Betar, which got the better of Bnei Sakhnin, Ahi Nazareth and Hapoel Kfar Saba on its way to the last four, has gone 19 years without a cup triumph and is also seeking the first league a cup double in club history. And its players will have to put the trauma of Sunday's pitch invasion at Teddy Stadium and subsequent abandoned league game behind it if it is to continue its cup run to the final. "I last played in the cup semifinals two years ago with Maccabi Haifa and we lost," Betar midfielder Michal Zandberg told the club's Web site. "I've already lost in the semis on four separate occasions, but I hope to change all that on Wednesday and reach the cup final for the first time in my career." Zandberg will be celebrating his 28th birthday on Wednesday and is using the special occasion as extra motivation. "I've been psyching up the boys, telling them that they better not lose on my birthday," he said. Maccabi Netanya had to defeat Hapoel Umm-El-Fahem, Maccabi Haifa and Hakoakh Amidar Ramat Gan on route to the National Stadium and can end 30 years without a cup final appearance with another win on Wednesday. "I can't wait for the start of the match," Netanya defender Dedi Ben-Dayan told the club's Web site. "Winning the cup is so much more gratifying than winning the league. I hope we can win this match and rewrite the history of the club." Two-time defending cup holder Hapoel Tel Aviv, which beat Upper Nazareth, Hapoel Beer Sheba and Bnei Yehuda in earlier rounds, can move with a victory within one win of becoming the first team in 69 years to lift the cup three straight seasons . "We're not taking Betar/Shimshon lightly and we're preparing for this match with all the seriousness it deserves," Hapoel defender Yigal Antebi said. "Our goal at the moment is only to reach the final and we're not thinking of winning the title yet. "We saw what Betar/Shimshon did to Maccabi Tel Aviv and Kiryat Shmona, but we can't concentrate on that and must do all we can to advance." The Cinderella of the competition, Betar/Shimshon, can still hardly believe that it knocked-out Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Petah Tikva, and Ironi Kiryat Shmona to get to Ramat Gan and is looking to become the first team ever from the third division to win the cup. "If we beat Hapoel it will be a dream come true," Betar/Shimshon coach Ronen Weinstein said. "We must prepare the players to the pressure they will be under and make sure it doesn't affect them. Tension can be positive, but also negative. "I will make sure the players will be calm and focused and that they perform at their very best." Veteran Betar/Shimshon striker Ofer Shitrit has played in big matches before and knows what to expect on Wednesday. "We're itching for the match to start'" Shitrit said. "Personally I don't feel any pressure, but I'm excited. I hope we can get the job done."