Bumbling Betar still hopes to salvage some cup pride

J'lem hosts National League side Hapoel Rishon Lezion at Teddy Stadium in the last 16 of the State Cup.

March 1, 2011 06:21
2 minute read.
Betar Jerusalem coach Roni Levy

Roni Levy 311. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)


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With its Premier League campaign going from bad to worse, Betar Jerusalem still has its sights set on rescuing something from this season with a successful State Cup run.

Betar hosts National League side Hapoel Rishon Lezion at Teddy Stadium in the last 16 of the cup on Tuesday night, looking to rebound from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Hapoel Petah Tikva, which left it just six points clear of the relegation zone.

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After winning its first match under coach Roni Levy at Hapoel Beersheba, Betar has reverted back to its old ways in recent weeks, going winless in its past five league encounters, picking up just three points from a possible 15.

Jerusalem looks set to fight relegation to the National League until the end of the season and Levy is hoping the cup will prove to be a positive distraction from its recent struggles and give it a boost in its battle for premiership survival.

“The match against Rishon will be far from easy, but we are looking to do our best and win,” Levy said. “As far as I’m concerned, our league campaign is far more important, but we are still hoping to advance to the quarterfinals.

“A cup win can help release some of the pressure on the team, but with all due respect to the match against Rishon, we are focusing on the league.”

Rishon is only sixth in the National League standings, but it will be looking to claim its second straight Premier League scalp after knocking out Bnei Sakhnin in the previous round.

Also Tuesday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Hapoel Beersheba, Hapoel Petah Tikva visits Maccabi Netanya, Ness Ziona welcomes Hapoel Haifa, Ashdod SC goes to Maccabi Herzliya and Hapoel Ra’anana faces Ironi Jatt.

Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa play their last 16 ties on Wednesday, and will be entering them in completely different moods.

While confidence levels are sky-high at Hapoel following Sunday’s convincing 4-1 victory over Haifa, the Greens are just hoping to forget about what unfolded at Bloomfield Stadium.

Haifa will have an ideal opportunity to return to winning ways on Wednesday when it hosts Hapoel Jerusalem, the only remaining third-division team in the draw.

“We can’t take Hapoel Jerusalem lightly,” Levy told his players on Monday. “We need to get through this match and remain focused on the future.”

Hapoel Tel Aviv, the defending cup holder, will face Hapoel Ashkelon without in-form striker Ben Sahar, who is suspended after picking up a yellow card against Haifa, but will still be a clear favorite to advance to the last eight.

“We were consistent against Haifa and played intelligent soccer,” said Hapoel coach Eli Gutman, who watched the victory over Haifa from his home where he is still recuperating from the heart attack he suffered over three weeks ago.

“We need to use this match as a platform for the future. We already face our next test on Wednesday.

We will have to approach the match against Ashkelon with a lot of modesty and maturity,” he said.

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