Ironi Kiryat Shmona defender Eyad Abu Abaid (left) battles for the ball with Hapoel Beersheba forward Anthony Nawkaeme (right) during last night’s 1-1 draw in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinals at Turner Stadium..
(photo credit: MEIR EVEN HAIM)
Hapoel Beersheba left itself with plenty of work to do to reach the State Cup semifinals after being held to a 1-1 draw by Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the first leg of the quarterfinals at Turner Stadium on Wednesday night.
Beersheba, which hasn’t won the cup since 1997, was knocked out by Kiryat Shmona in the round-of-16 last season. That 2-1 loss in January 2017 remains Beersheba’s only defeat at Turner in Premier League or State Cup action since the reigning champion entered its new home early in the 2015/16 season. Kiryat Shmona was on course for another upset after dominating the first half and taking the lead through Dutch striker Nigel Hasselbaink’s 31st-minute opener.
But Beersheba, which is still reeling from losing first place in the league to Maccabi Tel Aviv following Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the yellow- and-blue, turned up a gear in the second half and managed to avoid defeat thanks to Maor Melikson’s 70th-minute equalizer.
While Kiryat Shmona hosts the second leg on February 28 with a great opportunity to advance, it should have led by more than a single goal at the break.
After Hasselbaink headed in the opener, Beersheba was saved by goalkeeper Dudu Goresh four minutes later when he denied Milos Radivojevic’s header with an acrobatic effort.
Beersheba coach Barak Bachar was so frustrated with his side’s display that he didn’t even wait until halftime to make a change, sending on Melikson in place of Dan Einbinder in the 38th minute.
That didn’t help the hosts create chances in the remainder of the first half, but Beersheba displayed more intensity in the second half and scored a deserved equalizer.
Hapoel already found the back of the net in the 63rd minute, but Guy Melamed’s goal was wrongly disallowed, with TV replays showing that Anthony Nawkaeme, who set up the goal, wasn’t offside.
Beersheba finally leveled the score in the 70th minute, with Nawkaeme threading the ball through for Melikson, who scored with a classy finish.
Kiryat Shmona was left with 10 men after Sagiv Yehezkel was sent off in the 75th minute, but Beersheba couldn’t capitalize and is still a long way from the semifinals.
Beersheba was playing without Nigerian midfielder John Ogu, who was suspended earlier in the day for four matches by the Israel Football Association disciplinary court for his misconduct during Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Ogu was sent off in the 25th minute, receiving a first yellow card for a foul on Nick Blackman before being booked for a second time moments later for shoving Avi Rikan. Ogu was further penalized by the IFA on Wednesday for his reaction to the red card, with referee Liran Lirani writing in his report that the Nigerian cursed him and acted in a threatening manner.
Ogu will also miss the league matches against Ashdod SC, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Beitar Jerusalem, and will be available for the second leg against Kiryat Shmona.
Also Wednesday, Ashdod SC and Hapoel Ra’anana showed why they are battling relegation from the Premier League with poor displays in a 1-1 draw in their first leg. Ashdod and Ra’anana are tied on 17 points in the league standings, one point above the relegation zone.
Blessing Eleke gave the hosts the lead in the 63rd minute, with Or Dasa equalizing for Ra’anana seven minutes later.