Maccabi Haifa’s Yossi Benayoun.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Haifa’s dream of claiming a first State Cup since 1998 is still alive after the Greens advanced to the last 16 on Wednesday night with a 2-1 win over Beitar Jerusalem at Haifa Stadium.
The two Israeli powerhouses were unlucky to already be paired in the draw for the round of 32, the first in which Premier League teams participate. Lidor Cohen gave Beitar the lead in the ninth minute, but Haifa turned the match on its head by the break, with Yossi Benayoun equalizing in the 16th minute and Ismaeel Ryan putting the Greens in front seven minutes later. Beitar couldn’t find another goal and Haifa fans were delirious at the final whistle.
Earlier Wednesday, Hapoel Tel Aviv twice came back from a goal down to take a late lead in Nazareth, but it was ultimately fortunate to make it through to the next round, overcoming Hapoel Upper Nazareth 4-2 in a penalty shootout after extratime ended in a 3-3 draw. Sagiv Yehezkel equalized in the 20th and 43rd minutes after Moti Malka (2) and Eran Malchin (33) had given the hosts the lead.
Omri Altman put Hapoel ahead in the 77th minute, but Osei Mawuli sent the match into extra time with his dramatic goal in the 89th minute. The encounter would ultimately be decided in penalties, with Altman clinching a 4-2 victory in the shootout after Nazareth missed its first two attempts.
The two other Premier League teams in action on Wednesday also advanced, with Hapoel Ra’anana beating Hakoakh Amidar Ramat Gan 3-0, while Hapoel Kfar Saba defeated Hapoel Afula 2-0.
The final qualifier for the last 16 will be decided on Thursday when last season’s winner Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Ramat Hasharon of the National League.
The yellow-and-blue will be a firm favorite to advance, even with coach Peter Bosz admitting that he will rest several of his starters in order to give some of the squad’s fringe players a chance to prove themselves.
“It’s very important,” said Bosz about winning the cup.
“There are two competitions left and I want to win everything that is left to win. I want to see all of the players, so I may use other players that didn’t play in the last match. It’s an opportunity for me to see different players.”
Maccabi midfielder Dor Micha used Wednesday’s press conference to criticize Slavisa Jokanovic’s short tenure at the club during which Micha struggled to break into the lineup.
“I think that the change in the coaching position will do the team good,” he said. “We saw in the match against Haifa that the intensity and ball movement were much better.
There was negative energy with the previous coach which didn’t help the players. Now they are much better and that is important.”