Maccabi Tel Aviv players celebrate last night in Netanya after clinching victory over Hapoel Ra’anana in a penalty shootout in the State Cup round of 16. .
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv breathed a huge sigh of relief after its bid to reach a third straight State Cup final remained alive following a penalty shootout win over Hapoel Ra’anana in the round-of-16 on Wednesday night.
Vidar Orn Kjartansson’s header gave Maccabi the lead in the 102nd minute, with the tie in Netanya requiring extra time after the first 90 minutes ended in a goalless deadlock.
That seemed destined to be the only goal of the uneventful encounter until Yossi Benayoun tripped Mohammed Shaker in the box one minute from the end of extra time.
Shimon Abuhazira, who joined Ra’anana from Beitar Jerusalem last week, smashed in the spot kick to equalize to 1-1 and forced further penalties to decide the tie.
At 1-1 in the shootout, Ra’anana’s Ben Binyamin had his attempt saved by goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic and Maccabi players continued to convert their penalties to secure a place in the quarterfinals with a 4-2 win when Rodgers Kola sent his shot high above the crossbar.
Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Yehuda also advanced on Wednesday, joining Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Hapoel Haifa, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Ramat Gan of the National League in Thursday’s quarters draw.
The final team to reach the last eight was decided after press time in the match between Ashdod SC and Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle, which entered extra time tied at 1-1.
“I’m happy with the result and unhappy with the performance,” said Maccabi Tel Aviv sports director Jordi Cruyff, who continues to guide the team on an interim basis three weeks after the sacking of Shota Arveladze.
“The team lacked energy, was tired and we couldn’t play our regular football.
It is something we need to look at and improve because the performance was not good enough.”
Maccabi has triumphed in all five of its matches under Cruyff to date, and he didn’t sound like he was in any rush to bring in a new coach.
“I think that in the past five games we could see that the main issue is not a coaching issue,” he explained. “We have the same players and suddenly we look more energetic, apart from today.
The players are showing more character and I think the competitive level has gone up.
When we feel we have the right coach we will make the decision. The priority in the final five days of the transfer period is to make the team stronger.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv lost to Maccabi Haifa in last season’s final after winning the cup with a victory over Beersheba the previous year.
Elsewhere, Beitar Jerusalem reached the last eight with a sweet 2-1 win over Bnei Sakhnin at Teddy Stadium.
Beitar avenged its 1-0 defeat to Sakhnin in Teddy back in November, with Dan Einbinder (41) and Itay Shechter (72) scoring for the hosts.
Idan Shemesh gave Sakhnin some hope in the 79th minute, but Beitar held on to secure its progress.
With the fight against relegation from the Premier League of a far greater importance for both teams, Hapoel Ashkelon and Bnei Yehuda were hoping for a pleasant distraction on Wednesday.
Bnei Yehuda got exactly that and picked up some much-needed confidence with a 4-0 victory on the road.
Alon Turgeman (20, 29) and Nerijus Valskis (42, 88) scored for the winners, who last reached the cup final in 2010.
In other news, Hapoel Kfar Saba named Eli Cohen as its new coach on Wednesday. Cohen replaces Sharon Mimer, who was sacked on Monday following a 10-match winless run that has left the team one point above the relegation zone.
Cohen was fired by Hapoel Haifa last month following its disappointing start to the season.