State cup: Igiebor nets Hap Tel Aviv a State Cup treble

Injury-time goal lifts reds past Maccabi Haifa for their third-straight cup triumph.

Hapoel Tel Aviv wins 3rd straight State Cup 370  (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv wins 3rd straight State Cup 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv became the first team in 73 years to win the State Cup three years in a row on Tuesday night after Nosa Igiebor scored two minutes into stoppage time to give the Reds a 2-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa in the final at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
After a dreary first half, the match burst into life when Mirko Oremus netted the opener for Hapoel in the 58th minute, only for Haifa’s Dele Yampolsky to equalize just four minutes later with a looping header.
The showdown seemed to be heading into extra time, but Haifa’s defense switched off in the 92nd minute, allowing Salim Toama to pick out Igiebor, who slotted the winner beyond Nir Davidovich to give Hapoel its fifth cup triumph in seven years.
“This has been a crazy season,” said Hapoel coach Nitzan Shirazi, who joined the club in January in place of the fired Dror Kashtan.
“I couldn’t turn down Hapoel’s offer. I knew I was entering a crazy situation, but I didn’t know how crazy.
“I don’t think any other club in Israel could have overcome what we did.”
Hapoel fans continued their on-going protest against owner Eli Tabib on Tuesday, despite Tabib already announcing that he wants to sell the club.
Midfielder Shay Abutbul, whose season was cut short through injury, attacked the owner over the weekend, saying he must leave, and despite being suspended immediately by the club, he lifted the cup together with captain Walid Badier.
“All the players wanted me to lift the cup with them so I did,” Abutbul said. “I can’t put into words what we accomplished.
“With everything that has gone on we still managed to finish in second place and win the cup. This is a big club and will always be a big club.”
Haifa’s third defeat in the cup final in four years is an especially bitter pill to swallow for both the club and its departing coach. Elisha Levy was hoping to leave the Greens on a high after four seasons at the club, but he once more failed to lift the one trophy missing from his collection, which also means Haifa will not play in Europe next season after only ending the Premier League in fifth place.
Hapoel’s win sends Maccabi Netanya, which finished in fourth, into the Europa League as Tel Aviv also ended the league campaign as runner-up.
“It was we who lost the cup, Hapoel didn’t win it,” said Levy. “I feel bad for the players who gave their all. It wasn’t a great game but it was a real fight. It is a shame we conceded so close to the final whistle. We can only regret our mistakes, but that is sport for you.”
It would be no exaggeration to write that the first half of Tuesday’s final was as dull as any in the history of the cup final.
The 37,000 fans in attendance had to wait 17 minutes to finally see a first shot on goal, with Yaniv Katan firing straight at Hapoel keeper Apoula Edel.
That would prove to be the only shot on goal either team registered in the first 45 minutes, with both Hapoel and Haifa not willing to take any risks.
The match needed a moment of inspiration or a mistake to open up and the breakthrough finally arrived in the 58th minute.
Roei Gordana stole the ball off Katan in the center of the field and threaded it through to Oremus, who made no mistake with only Davidovich to beat.
Haifa’s Levy quickly made a change and his substitution paid off immediately.
Less than two minutes after coming on in place of the ineffective Mohammad Ghadir, Yampolsky climbed above Hapoel’s Yigal Antebi and headed the ball beyond Edel.
Haifa’s quick equalizer resulted in both teams going into their shell once more, but just when it seemed that extra time was inevitable, Igiebor came up with the winner, sparking delirium among the reds faithful.