After days of build-up to the match dominated by the fight against racism, Eran Levy made all the headlines at Teddy Stadium on Tuesday night, scoring a hat-trick to lead Betar Jerusalem to the last 16 of the State Cup with a 5-0 humbling of Maccabi Umm al-Fahm.
With Saturday’s anti-Muslim bigotry at Teddy fresh in everyone’s mind, there was real concern that Tuesday’s showdown could boil over.
However, considering the events of recent days, the match went off without a hitch, with Levy single-handedly breaking Umm al-Fahm hearts with three goals (8, 37, 53) before Dominik Glavina netted a brace (64, 90) to pile the misery on the visitors from the National League.
Betar needed less than eight minutes to take the lead, with Levy curling a free-kick from 20 meters out into the bottom left corner.
Umm al-Fahm came centimeters away from equalizing nine minutes later when Giorgi Gabiodri’s free kick came off the upright.
Moments later, Betar all but clinched the win against the run of play.
Glavina had his shot parried by goalkeeper Muhammad Sha’abat, but Levy was first to the rebound and doubled Jerusalem’s advantage.
Levy completed his hat-trick with one of the goals of the season eight minutes into the second half, releasing an unstoppable left-footed rocket from 25 meters out before Glavina poured salt on Umm al-Fahm’s wounds.
Premier League leader Maccabi Tel Aviv also advanced safely to the last 16, beating Maccabi Netanya 2-0 courtesy of Eliran Atar’s 66th-minute penalty and debutant Eran Zahavi’s stoppage-time strike.
Third division Hapoel Afula recorded the shock of the day by beating Hapoel Acre of the Premier League 2-1 on the road to advance to the last 16.
Ben Ben-Shushan (50) gave the visitors a surprise lead, only for Nebojsa Marinkovic to equalize for Acre from the penalty spot in the 76th minute.
However, Nadav Elba put Afula back in front with a superb finish from the edge of the area in the 89th minute and a sensational save by ’keeper Ido Levy from an Ohad Kadusi header in the fourth minute of injury time secured the upset of the day.
Hapoel Ramat Hasharon of the Premier League was also sent packing on Tuesday, losing 2-1 to Maccabi Yavne of the National League.
Hugo Lopez put Ramat Hasharon in front (13), but veteran striker Oren Nissim equalized after 19 minutes and Timor Avitan sent Yanve through with the winner five minutes from time.
Afula will be joined by fellow thirddivision side Asi Gilboa in the draw for the last 16 after the latter surprised National League Hapoel Petah Tikva 1- 0 thanks to a Tomer Brooks 82ndminute goal.
The only fourth division team to make the round of 32 saw its Cinderella run come to an end on Tuesday, with Betar Nahariya losing 6-1 to Hapoel Ashkelon of the National League.
The remaining seven last 32 ties will take place on Wednesday, including three all-Premier League matches.
Hapoel Ramat Gan hosts Ashdod SC, Hapoel Haifa visits Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Tel Aviv goes to Hapoel Beersheba.
Tel Aviv has lost its way in the past couple of months, dropping to third place on goal difference behind Maccabi Haifa in the league standings after suffering a 3-0 defeat to the Greens on Sunday.
The Reds have won just two of their past eight matches and are desperate to stop the rot with a confidenceboosting cup win.
Beersheba moved nine points clear of the relegation zone on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Hapoel Haifa.
In-form Maccabi Haifa, which has won nine of its past 10 league matches to climb up to second place, visits third-division Hapoel Azur on Wednesday.
Also Wednesday: Upper Nazareth vs Bnei Sakhnin; Hapoel Herzliya vs Ironi Kiryat Shmona; Hapoel Kfar Saba vs Maccabi Herzliya.