Hapoel Beersheba closed to within two wins of claiming its first title in 17 years on Tuesday night, surviving a scare against Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League to record a 3-2 victory at Haberfeld Stadium and advance to the State Cup semifinals.
Beersheba joined Maccabi Petah Tikva and National League-leader Maccabi Netanya, who progressed to the last four earlier Tuesday, with the fourth semifinalist to be decided on Wednesday in the showdown between Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Beitar Jerusalem.
Beersheba, which lifted its one and only cup in 1997, seemed to be cruising after dominating the first 25 minutes of the match, taking a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Dovev Gabai (16) and Gal Erel (24).
However, Elisha Levy’s team found itself in trouble after gifting the hosts two goals, with Nir Nahum (40) bringing Rishon back into the match before Fernando Matias Martin (66) leveled the score after a blunder by goalkeeper Austin Ejide.
Beersheba was rattled, but scored the winner eight minutes from time thanks to the class of Maor Buzaglo and Elyaniv Barda.
Buzaglo’s clever backheel was met by a surging Barda, who smashed in the winner from a tight angle to send Beersheba into the last four.
Earlier Tuesday, Petah Tikva put its league struggles to one side and ended Ma’alot-Tarshiha’s Cinderella run with an emphatic 8-0 victory. Ma’alot-Tarshiha, which became just the second team ever from the fourth tier or lower to reach the last eight of the cup, couldn’t emulate its previous upsets against a vastly superior opponent. Lidor Cohen scored a hat-trick (23, 44, 45), Diya Saba (26, 69) and Luka Rotkovic (59, 65) netted a brace each while Victor Merey (48) found the back of the net once.
Netanya, which is on the verge of securing its return to the top flight, leading the second division standings by 12 points, proved it belongs in the Premier League by outplaying Hapoel Ramat Hasharon in a 3-0 win.
Eran Levy netted Netanya’s opener from the penalty spot in the 15th minute before Ran Rol (43) and Yarin Hasan (56) clinched the win, with Netanya goalkeeper Ohad Levita saving Emir Hadzic’s penalty in stoppage time.
In other soccer news, Maccabi Haifa midfielder Ruben Rayos was suspended for five matches by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Tuesday for his two-legged tackle which tore Bnei Yehuda midfielder Rafi Dahan’s right knee ligaments earlier this month. However, assuming Rayos fulfills his commitment to volunteer at Haifa’s Rambam hospital he will only have to sit out three more games.
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