Beitar Jerusalem striker Itay Shechter..
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Itay Shechter ensured Sharon Mimer got life as Beitar Jerusalem’s new coach off to a dream start on Tuesday night, scoring twice in a 2-0 win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinals at Teddy Stadium.
Mimer was named as Beitar’s new coach on Monday, one day after the sacking of Ran Ben-Shimon. His new players welcomed him with a spirited performance, displaying the urgency and ambition the team had so desperately lacked under Ben-Shimon.
Shechter netted the opener with a penalty in the 21st minute, drawing the spot kick by throwing himself over the outreached leg of goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan. There was no question regarding Shechter’s second goal, with the striker firing an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area to give Beitar a promising lead ahead of the second leg in Kiryat Shmona on March 1.
The three remaining quarterfinal ties will get underway on Wednesday.
The lone remaining National League side, Hapoel Ramat Gan, visits Hapoel Haifa, Ashdod SC hosts Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Petah Tikva in a showdown between the teams in second and third place in the league.
Both teams are entering the match brimming with confidence, with Tel Aviv closing within five points of Hapoel Beersheba at the top of the league standings with a 1-0 win over the reigning champion on Saturday.
Petah Tikva is just two points back of the yellow-and-blue, extending its unbeaten streak to 10 matches with a 1-0 win over Kiryat Shmona on Saturday.
Petah Tikva, which knocked out Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv in the previous two rounds, announced on Tuesday that it handed coach Kobi Refua a two-year contract extension.
It has been more than a month since Maccabi sacked coach Shota Arveladze, but sports director and interim coach Jordi Cruyff seems to be in no rush to name a successor. Maccabi is unbeaten in seven matches over all competitions under Cruyff, but he rebuffed speculation that he intends to remain at the helm until the end of the season.
“We need to pinpoint the right person and find the right timing which is not right now,” said Cruyff.