Ma’alot-Tarshiha’s Cinderella run in the State Cup continued on Tuesday with its latest and greatest chapter.
The fourth-division side stunned Hapoel Petah Tikva of the National League 2-1 to advance to the quarterfinals, becoming just the second team ever from the fourth tier or lower to reach the last-eight of the cup.
The last side to do so was Hapoel Yeruham in 1990 and the amateur Ma’alot-Tarshiha wrote its name in the history books after hitting Petah Tikva on the break twice on Tuesday.
Petah Tikva, which currently occupies second place in the National League that leads to Premier League promotion, dominated the possession, but failed to find the back of the net and was punished when Bar Cohen handed the hosts the lead in the 62nd minute.
Daniel Tasao doubled Ma’alot-Tarshiha’s advantage six minutes from time and Yogev Ben-Simon’s goal in the 90th minute was of little consolation for the despondent Petah Tikva.
“I told the players that they are only facing humans,” said Ma’alot-Tarshiha coach Jerry Ben-Hemo, whose side is only placed in fifth position in one of the two northern districts of Liga Bet, losing 2-1 to Hapoel Bu’eine in its most recent match.
“I knew that we would have to defend for most of the match, but we managed to hit them on the break and I’m happy that proved to be sufficient to win.”
Unlike the Premier League clubs, who only joined the cup in the eighth round (the last-32), Ma’alot-Tarshiha’s campaign got underway in the first round.
The team had to come through eight rounds just to reach the last-16 and face Petah Tikva, also overcoming Hakoakh Amidar Ramat Gan of the National League in the seventh round.
Ma’alot-Tarshiha has a reasonable chance of avoiding a top-flight opponent in the last eight as well, with two National League teams also advancing to the quarters on Tuesday.
The second-division’s runaway leader, Maccabi Netanya, defeated fellow National- League club Upper Nazareth 1-0 courtesy of Idan Shriki’s 22nd-minute goal.
Hapoel Rishon Lezion recorded an upset by beating favorite Bnei Sakhnin 1-0 on the road. Shlomi Azulai scored the only goal of the match with an accurate free kick in the 72nd minute.
Beitar Jerusalem avenged its cup defeat to Bnei Lod from two years ago by claiming a 1-0 victory on Tuesday. With so many of the big names out of the competition, Beitar will like its chances of going all the way after Shlomi Azulai netted the winner in the 56th minute in Lod.
Also Tuesday, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon advanced after beating Ashdod SC 8-7 in a penalty shootout, with extra-time ending in a 1-1 deadlock. Yaro Bello gave Ashdod the lead from the penalty spot in the fourth minute, with Michael Zandberg equalizing for the visitors seven minutes into the second half.
Ashdod, which knocked out Maccabi Tel Aviv in the previous round, didn’t trail in the shootout until it mattered most, with Hatem El-Hamid missing his team’s ninth attempt before Ben Ben-Yair clinched Ramat Hasharon’s victory with the subsequent kick.
On Wednesday, Hapoel Beersheba visits Hapoel Kfar Saba of the third division.
With Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa all already out of the cup, Beersheba looks to be ideally placed to go on and lift its second cup in club history and first since 1997.
Also Wednesday, two more all-Premier League ties will take place, with Hapoel Ra’anana to host Maccabi Petah Tikva and Ironi Kiryat Shmona to visit Hapoel Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
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