(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
After seeing its Premier League title defense suffer a significant blow in the past couple of weeks, Maccabi Tel Aviv kept its quest for a second straight State Cup triumph on track on Wednesday night with a 3-0 win on the road against Hapoel Kfar Saba in the first leg of the quarterfinals.
Maccabi has fallen five points behind Hapoel Beersheba in the standings following two straight draws, but it effectively secured its place in the cup semifinals with a comfortable victory away from home on Wednesday.
Haris Medunjanin netted the opener in the 33rd minute with a splendid shot from the edge of the box, finding the back of the net for the first time since returning to the club in the January transfer window.
Eden Ben-Basat doubled the advantage in the 54th minute and Dor Micha put the tie to bed two minutes from time.
Earlier Tuesday, Bnei Sakhnin all but secured its place in the last four, beating Hapoel Ashkelon of the National League 3-0 at Doha Stadium.
Sakhnin took the lead in the fourth minute when Firas Mugrabi’s unstoppable left-footed shot from the edge of the area curled into the top left corner. Brazilian midfielder Georginho made it 2-0 four minutes from the break with his header and Tambi Sagas capped the scoring in the 62nd minute, leaving Ashkelon with an almost impossible mission in the return leg.
In Tuesday’s duels, Hapoel Beersheba beat Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle 2-0, while Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Haifa drew 2-2.
The second legs will be played on March 1/2.
Meanwhile, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa both experienced a frustrating day in the Israel Football Association disciplinary courts on Wednesday.
After being punished to host Monday’s match against Maccabi Haifa away from Teddy Stadium due to the unruly behavior of its fans in the game against Bnei Sakhnin, Beitar’s appeal was turned down by the IFA ’s High Court last week and its request for a retrial was rejected on Wednesday.
The decision infuriated club owner Eli Tabib, who threatened to order the team not to show up for the match.
He is unlikely to go through with his threat, but Beitar is stalling on announcing where the match will be moved to, with the stadium in Petah Tikva the likely venue. Hosting the match in Petah Tikva instead of Teddy is set to reduce Beitar’s income from ticket sales by NIS 1.5 million.
Maccabi Haifa was also sentenced on Wednesday to host a match away from its home stadium due to its fans’ conduct.
The Greens were punished after their supporters threw flares during last month’s match at Hapoel Acre, and should their appeal be turned down, will have to host Hapoel Tel Aviv away from Haifa Stadium.