maccabi haifa 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Maccabi Haifa's dream of an unprecedented Premier League, State Cup and Toto Cup triple is one step closer to reality after it beat Hapoel Petah Tikva 1-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium Tuesday night to advance to the 10th round of the State Cup.
Haifa has a comfortable, 16-point lead atop the league standings and is set to play in the Toto Cup final on March 15.
Maccabi, which hasn't won the State Cup in eight years, beat Petah Tikva 1-0 thanks to Xavier Dirceu's 53rd-minute, 30-meter shot that was spilled by Hapoel's 'keeper into the goal.
Maccabi may have felt unlucky not to win by more than the one goal, but the slim win was enough to put it into the next round.
The Premier League teams joined the competition in this round. Tuesday night, all of the top clubs in action - except Hapoel Upper Nazareth - advanced.
The National League's Ironi Ramat Hasharon took advantage of Upper Nazareth's recent poor form and defeated the Premier League club 2-1 after extra time. Upper Nazareth took the lead with Zoltan Fulop's goal in the 58th minute, but Haim Sabo equalized for Ramat Hasharon in the 76th. Neither side added to the score before the final whistle and the match went into extra time.
In the 105th minute, Ramat Hasharon scored the winner. Sabo passed to Marcelo Garta, who made it count for the visitors.
"In our worse nightmares, we didn't imagine such a scenario," said Upper Nazareth captain Avishai Zano after the match. "Instead of leading 3-0 we conceded goal after goal and lost the match."
In the most thrilling match of the day Ashdod SC defeated Hapoel Haifa 3-2. Ashdod took the lead in the 25th minute when Yaniv Azran scored from just inside the box. Eight minutes later Haifa equalized after Asi Buzaglo headed the ball over the hosts' 'keeper.
Four minutes before halftime, Hungarian Akos Kovrig fired the visitors into the lead and a surprise looked like it could be in order.
Ashdod striker Shai Holtzman came on as a substitute in the second half and in the 73rd minute he tucked the ball in to tie the score. Four minutes into stoppage time, Holtzman scored the winner and sent his team to the next round.
In other ninth-round matches on Tuesday, it was: Maccabi Kafr Kanna 1, Maccabi Or Akiva 0; Hapoel Marmorek 2, Maccabi Kiryat Gat 0; Hapoel Acre 1, Hapoel Kiryat Shmona 0; Hapoel Beersheba 2, Maccabi Tirat Carmel 0 (AET); Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan 2, Hapoel Ra'anana 1 (AET); Bnei Sakhnin 4, Maccabi Beersheba 0; Hapoel Jerusalem 0, Maccabi Herzliya 2; Hapoel Kfar Saba 3, Maccabi Ahi Nazareth 0; Hapoel Tel Aviv 3, Ironi Rishon Lezion 0.
On Wednesday, it is: Betar Jerusalem vs Kiryat Ata, 6 p.m.; Maccabi Netanya vs Maccabi Petah Tikva, 6:15 p.m. (live on Channel 1); and Hapoel Ashkelon vs Bnei Yehuda, 7 p.m.
The last match of the round will take place next Tuesday when Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bnei Lod.
The draw for the 10th round will be held on Thursday at Israel Football Association headquarters in Ramat Gan.