(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
One title down, two to go.
Hapoel Beersheba completed the first part of a potential local treble on Wednesday, defeating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 4-1 in the Toto Cup final in Netanya.
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, and Beersheba is well placed to become the second side to do so following Wednesday’s triumph.
Beersheba entered the match on the back of two consecutive league games without a win, being held to a 1-1 draw by Hapoel Tel Aviv on Sunday after losing to Hapoel Ra’anana 1-0 the previous week.
Nevertheless, it still remains a firm favorite to defend its league title, holding a seven-point gap at the top over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Beersheba’s place in the round of 16 of the State Cup also looks to already be all but guaranteed after being drawn to face Maccabi Tzur Shalom of the third division in the last 32.
The Toto Cup was never a priority for Beersheba, with Israeli soccer’s second cup competition often overlooked by clubs, being used as an opportunity to give bench players a chance to prove themselves or a trial to a potential recruit.
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However, once Beersheba reached the latter stages it had no intention of allowing a piece of silverware, as unattractive as it may be, to escape its grasp.
“It was very important for us to win this title,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “It is always fun to win a title.
This is only the beginning and we want to continue and win every title.”
Beersheba won the competition for the third time in its history, and the first since 1995/1996, in comfortable fashion on Wednesday. Ben Sahar put his team in the driving seat with two goals in two firsthalf minutes and Beersheba remained in control until the final whistle.
Sahar netted the opener from the penalty spot in the 34th minute after Maor Melikson was brought down in the box and doubled the advantage two minutes later with a clinical finish.
A Ben Turgeman own goal in the 70th minute handed Kiryat Shmona a lifeline, but Maharan Radi clinched the victory for Beersheba just three minutes later with a superb shot into the top left corner from 20 meters out. Captain Elyaniv Barda capped the win in the 90th minute with his first goal of an injury- plagued season.
Beersheba boosted its bank account with the win, receiving NIS 1.3 million, while Kiryat Shmona settled for NIS one million.
Zrihan suspended four games for racist remarks Ashdod SC striker Niv Zrihan was suspended for four games and fined NIS 5,000 by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Wednesday for racially abusing teammate Or Inbrom during Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv, calling him a “stinking Ethiopian.”
Zrihan, who was already fined NIS 25,000 and suspended for two weeks by his club, was quick to apologize after the match, claiming that he blurted the abuse out in the heat of the moment.
“The past night was the toughest I have experienced since I began playing soccer,” wrote Zrihan on Instagram. “Not because of the criticism and not because of the publicity, but because of the terrible way in which I feel which I can’t put into words towards my friend Or Inbrom. I don’t know how something like that came out of my mouth. Nothing justifies it. I spoke to Or and I sincerely apologized and I’m happy that he gracefully accepted it.”
Beitar Jerusalem was fined NIS 45,000, but avoided a two-point deduction, after its fans shouted racist chants during Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Kiryat Shmona.
The IFA’s court decided not to hand Beitar the suspended point-deduction sentence it had received following a previous similar offense as it was convinced that the club is doing its utmost in order to uproot the problem.
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