Gutman must rally his troops in State Cup

Hap TA visits Kfar Saba in last 16; Ness Ziona looks to pull off another upset vs Sakhnin

Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Sagiv Yehezkel (left) celebrates with Moshe Ohayon. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Sagiv Yehezkel (left) celebrates with Moshe Ohayon.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Eli Gutman aims to build on his remarkable State Cup record at Hapoel Tel Aviv when his struggling side visits Hapoel Kfar Saba in the round of 16 on Tuesday night.
Gutman, who made his long awaited return to the sidelines on Saturday following the sacking of coach Guy Levy last week, won two cups and reached three finals during his initial four-year tenure at Hapoel.
The team was never beaten in regulation or extra-time under his guidance in the competition, only being knocked out in penalty shootouts between 2008 and 2011.
Hapoel will be hoping for a bit of a respite from the fight against relegation when it visits Kfar Saba, sitting just one place and three points above the bottom two after suffering a 1-0 defeat at Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday in Gutman’s first match back at the helm.
Everything apart from Gutman’s presence seemed to be the same for Hapoel in Sakhnin, with the team’s performance desperately poor yet again.
Despite the recent additions of Gai Assulin, Avihai Yadin, Alon Turgeman and Lotem Zino, with the first three all in action on Saturday, Hapoel failed to find the back of the net for the sixth time in its past eight matches and remained on five wins from 20 matches this season.
Hapoel can also count itself lucky to still be in the cup after only barely edging Hapoel Upper Nazareth of the National League in a penalty shootout in the previous round.
Hapoel twice came back from behind to take a late lead in Nazareth, but it was ultimately fortunate to make it through to the next round, winning 4-2 in the shootout after Nazareth’s Osei Mawuli sent the match into extra time with his dramatic goal in the 89th minute.
Hapoel also found itself battling demotion when Gutman first joined the side in December 2007, but he ultimately led the Reds to a seventh-place finish and a run to the cup final where it lost 5-4 on penalties to Beitar Jerusalem.
Tel Aviv was knocked out in penalties once more the following year, losing to Maccabi Haifa in the last 16, but would go on to claim the cup in the subsequent two seasons before Gutman left for the Israel national team.
Gutman knows his side will require a significant improvement on its display against Sakhnin to overcome in-form Kfar Saba.
“We didn’t look good but I wasn’t expecting anything else because I know exactly the situation we are in,” explained Gutman.
“Hapoel is fighting relegation and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding himself. The bright spot is that the players are fighting and showed a will to succeed.”
Kfar Saba climbed up to ninth place, seven points from the relegation zone, on Saturday after beating Maccabi Netanya in its third straight 1-0 win since new coach Sharon Mimer joined the side.
The Buzaglo brothers continue their cup odyssey over the next two days after all four reached the last 16.
After stunning Netanya in the previous round, Ness Ziona of the third division, guided by coach Ohad Buzaglo, will be targeting another upset when it hosts Sakhnin on Tuesday.
Asi Buzaglo and Hapoel Ashkelon face Hapoel Ramat Gan in an all-National League showdown, while Almog Buzaglo and Bnei Yehuda visit Ashdod SC.
The most successful Buzaglo, Maor, will be in action on Wednesday when Premier League leader Hapoel Beersheba visits Maccabi Petah Tikva.
In other action on Tuesday, Hapoel Ra’anana plays Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle of the second division.
On Wednesday, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Haifa meet in the derby, while cup holder Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League in the final last 16 encounter on Thursday.