Beitar Jerusalem on verge of State Cup semifinals

Two-goal first-leg victory in Kfar Saba puts Beitar in control • Haifa derby ends in stalemate

Beitar Jerusalem striker Gaetan Varenne fires his team into the lead in a 2-0 victory at Hapoel Kfar Saba in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinals. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Beitar Jerusalem striker Gaetan Varenne fires his team into the lead in a 2-0 victory at Hapoel Kfar Saba in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinals.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Beitar Jerusalem all but secured its place in the State Cup semifinals with a 2-0 road victory at Hapoel Kfar Saba of the National League in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Tuesday, while the derby tie between Maccabi Haifa and crosstown rival Hapoel remains finely balanced following a 2-2 draw.
Gaetan Varenne’s opener three minutes from halftime and an own-goal in the second half secured Beitar’s victory and Jerusalem should have little trouble advancing when it hosts the second leg at Teddy Stadium on February 28.
After stunning Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-0 in the round-of-16, Maccabi Haifa seemed to be on course for another sweet victory when it took a 2-0 lead in the first half on Tuesday. But goals by Nikita Rukavytsya (10) and Sintiyahu Salalik (15) would be canceled out in the second half after the Greens reverted to the form that has seen them win only one of their last 11 Premier League games.
Alon Turgeman’s (57) clinical move in the box and Gabriel Tamaș’s superb strike from 25 meters out 20 minutes later brought Hapoel, which is just three points off the summit in the league standings, back on level terms and put it in the driving seat ahead of the second leg which it will host on March 1.
Quarterfinal action continues on Wednesday when Hapoel Beersheba hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Ra’anana visits Ashdod SC.
Beersheba, which hasn’t won the cup since 1997, was knocked out by Kiryat Shmona in the round-of-16 last season.
That 2-1 loss in January 2017 remains Beersheba’s only defeat at Turner Stadium in Premier League or State Cup action since the reigning champion entered its new home early in the 2015/16 season. Marwan Kabha is set to make his debut for Beersheba, which is looking to rebound from Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Maccabi Tel Aviv that saw it lose first place in the standings to the yellow-and-blue.
In Kfar Saba, in-form striker Varenne gave Beitar the lead in the 42nd minute and Jerusalem is hoping the injury that resulted in his substitution at halftime won’t result in too much missed time. The 27-year-old has been unstoppable since the start of 2018, especially in State Cup action.
Varenne netted seven goals in six matches over all competitions in January, scoring braces in the team’s State Cup round-of-32 and round-of-16 triumphs. He also found the back of the net in this past Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa.
Beitar doubled its advantage through a Micky Yazu own goal in the 60th minute and cruised to the final whistle with an under-strength lineup.
“We didn’t play very well so we are really pleased that we still managed to win 2-0,” said Beitar coach Benny Ben-Zaken.
Kfar Saba was guided for the first time by Lithuanian Raimondas Zutautas, who spent four years in Israel as a Maccabi Haifa player between 1999 and 2003, including under current Kfar Saba owner Itzhak Shum. Zutautas, a former coach of the Lithuanian national team, replaced Messay Dego, who was sacked immediately following the 3-1 win over Beitar Kfar Saba in the round-of-16 after clashing with Shum.
“They were much more luckier than us,” was how Zutautas explained the defeat.
“They didn’t create many chances and they scored two goals from our mistakes. The tie is not finished and we need to try and do our best at Teddy.”