Hapoel Beersheba striker Mohammad Ghadir (center) scored his team’s second goal in last night’s 2-0 victory over Maccabi Tzur Shalom in the State Cup round-of-32..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba’s dream of becoming the second club to win the local treble is still alive. But the reigning Premier League champion had to dig a lot deeper than expected to overcome Maccabi Tzur Shalom of the third division 2-0 on Thursday to reach the State Cup round-of-16.
Beersheba holds an eight-point gap at the top of the Premier League standings and claimed the Toto Cup last week.
Maccabi Tel Aviv became the first team to win the Premier League championship, State Cup and Toto Cup in the same campaign in 2014/15.
Tzur Shalom sits in 11th place in Liga Alef Tzafon, but kept the Premier League leader at bay until the 55th minute. Maor Melikson finally broke the deadlock 10 minutes into the second half and Mohammad Ghadir clinched the win eight minutes later.
There were five other Premier League teams in action on Thursday and they all progressed against opponents from lower divisions.
Bnei Yehuda only did so after a penalty shootout, edging Hapoel Acre of the National League 4-3 on spot kicks after extra time ended in a 3-3 draw.
Bnei Yehuda looked to be in control after Antonio Mrsic (5) and Yonatan Cohen (23) gave the visitors a 2-0 lead. A hat-trick from Ido Exbard (50, 60, 77) completed a comeback for Acre, but Almog Buzaglo equalized in the 80th minute and the tie had to be decided in penalties after neither side scored in the additional 30 minutes.
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Buzaglo failed to convert his spot kick, but Acre missed two penalties and Alon Turgeman sent Bnei Yehuda into the next round.
Third-division Kfar Kassem didn’t fare as well as Tzur Shalom, being thrashed 6-1 at top flight Hapoel Haifa.
The hosts led 5-0 after a mere 18 minutes, with Dor Malul opening the scoring after four minutes before Hanan Maman netted four goals within 11 minutes (8, 11, 17, 18). Haim Megrelashvili made it 6-0 in the 32nd minute, with Rubil Sarsur netting a consolation goal in second-half stoppage time.
Hapoel Ra’anana advanced with a 4-1 win over Maccabi Ahi Nazareth.
Ra’anana scored through Rene Mihelic (42), Conlyde Luchanga (45), a Gal Sapir own goal (62) and Dor Hugi (85). Matias Martin (73) found the back of the net for the visitors.
Bnei Sakhnin beat Maccabi Shaaraim 3-1. Siraj Nassar (13, 45) and Yuval Avidor 68) scored for Sakhnin, with Eyal Danin (52) netting for Shaaraim.
Cup action continues on Friday, with six more matches, and on Saturday, with three more contests, including Maccabi Tel Aviv’s first game since the departure of coach Shota Arveladze.
Maccabi visits Bnei Lod of the National League, with sports director Jordi Cruyff, or one of Arveladze’s assistants, to guide the team.
Maccabi and Arveladze parted ways on Thursday, bringing his tenure to an end after less than seven months.
The Georgian got off to a promising start, leading the yellow-and-blue to the Europa League group stage and picking up 16 of a possible 18 points to start the Premier League season.
But the team lost its way over the past three months, winning just three of 10 league games to fall eight points back of Beersheba and suffering a disappointing exit from continental competition.
“We are going through a difficult year and we expected it,” said Cruyff on Thursday. “We probably didn’t expect the last 6-7 weeks when we lost points against teams that we should have taken points.”
Despite reports to the contrary, Cruyff insisted that he has a strong relationship with owner Mitch Goldhar “My relation with the owner is a good one and a solid one. Things that are happening this season were not unexpected for me and for him,” he explained. “We were planning to go through a process over the summer and maybe we will begin in January.
Mitch Goldhar is a man with a winning mentality and character and I have that same character.
“The club has had many good years and now is a difficult time with changes,” he added. “When you get used to winning you forget what losing is. Sometimes losing gives you a reality check.”
Maccabi Haifa, which beat Maccabi Tel Aviv in last season’s cup final, opens its title defense when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva in one of two all-Premier League showdown in the round-of-32.
The second all-Premier League showdown will see Beitar Jerusalem welcome Hapoel Kfar Saba on Saturday night.
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