Beersheba on verge of State Cup semifinals

Southerners build three-goal advantage ahead of second leg against Yavne; K8, Mac TA to clash tonight.

Hapoel Beersheba takes a win over Maccabi Yavne in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinals (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Beersheba takes a win over Maccabi Yavne in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinals
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Beersheba all but secured its progress to the State Cup semifinals for a second straight season on Tuesday night, beating Maccabi Yavne of the National League 3-0 in the first leg on the road in windy and sandy conditions.
After a balanced first half, in-form striker Shlomi Arbeitman handed Beersheba the lead with his fifth goal in the past three matches in the 49th minute.
Siraj Nasar (75) doubled the advantage just 30 seconds after coming on as a substitute, before Maor Melikson (80) wrapped up the scoring against his boyhood club.
With its Premier League championship challenge losing momentum in recent weeks, Beersheba is hoping to end its 18-year title drought with a cup triumph this season.
Beersheba, which will host the second leg in three weeks, lifted the cup for the one and only time in club history in 1997, with its two league championships coming in 1975 and 1976.
Also Tuesday, Maccabi Petah Tikva was held to a 0-0 draw at Hapoel Afula of the National League, while Hapoel Kfar Saba drew 1-1 with Ahi Nazareth in an all-National League showdown.
David Gomez gave Nazareth the lead on the road in the 11th minute, but Kfar Saba equalized through Eliran Simon (45).
“The wind made it impossible to play today,” said Petah Tikva coach Ran Ben-Shimon. “But we still reached some good chances which we should have converted.”
The tie of the round will begin on Wednesday when Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Before they turn their attention to their showdown in the league next Monday, the Premier League’s top two will be vying for a first-leg advantage ahead of the return leg at Bloomfield.
Maccabi, which is playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since last winning the cup in 2005, is aiming to become the first team to claim the local treble after already lifting the Toto Cup earlier this season.
Coach Pako Ayestaran is certainly treating the cup more seriously than his predecessors, resting star midfielder Eran Zahavi and defender Eitan Tibi on Sunday to keep them fresh for the meetings with current cup holder Kiryat Shmona.
Gili Vermouth is set to make his debut for Maccabi a week after completing his controversial move from Hapoel Tel Aviv, although it remains to be seen if he will do so as a starter or a substitute.
Kiryat Shmona is hoping its pitch will hold up in the stormy weather expected at the time of the match and will be desperate to claim a win on Wednesday ahead of the return leg on the road.
Kiryat Shmona has reached the final in each of the past two seasons and picked up some much needed confidence over the weekend with a 3-2 win over Hapoel Petah Tikva. Barak Bachar’s team closed to within two points of Maccabi Tel Aviv in first place after the yellow-and-blue could only manage a 3-3 draw at Maccabi Netanya on Sunday.
Kiryat Shmona welcomed back striker Shimon Abu Hazeira, who returned to the club on a loan deal until the end of the season from Maccabi Haifa.
Abu Hazeira was told to look for a new club after scoring just a single goal in 14 appearances for the greens, but doubled that tally with Kiryat Shmona within the first 26 minutes of Saturday’s encounter.
“I returned to a good team which had been doing well and I’m here to help,” said Abu Hazeira, who previously played for Kiryat Shmona between 2011 and 2013. “I’ve joined a healthy squad and I’m just a small piece in a perfect puzzle. We are facing a very important cup game, but I believe that everything will be fine as long as we’ll be focused.”