Maccabi Tel Aviv stunned by Um El Fahem

Second-tier squad ousts Premier League leader from State Cup • Beersheba, Mac Haifa, Beitar into last-16

Hapoel Um El Fahem’s shocking 3-2 comeback defeat of mighty Maccabi Tel Aviv over the weekend in State Cup round-of-32 action in Afula (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Um El Fahem’s shocking 3-2 comeback defeat of mighty Maccabi Tel Aviv over the weekend in State Cup round-of-32 action in Afula
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The Israel State Cup round-of-32 got under way over the weekend and there were plenty of surprises along the way as the competition always brings the best out of the lower division teams when they have a chance to shock one of the top league squads.
That was certainly the case when Hapoel Um El Fahem hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Afula Municipal Stadium and scored three unanswered goals to win 3-2 and book its place in the next round of play.
Vladimir Ivic’s side got out to a hot start as the defending league champion scored in the 13th minute via Avi Rikan thanks to a cross by Eylon Almog for a 1-0 lead. Maccabi doubled its advantage in the 32nd minute as Rikan played facilitator for Almog as the youngster put the visitors in the driver’s seat.
However, Nir Berkovic’s second-tier squad pulled a goal back in the 42nd minute as Nir Sardel sent a gorgeous ball to Tadas Kijanskas and the latter headed it past a helpless Andreas Gianniotis who was starting in place of a resting Daniel Tenenbaum.
The hosts kept pressing and found the equalizer when yellow-and-blue central defender Shahar Piven accidentally cleared the ball into his own goal as Um El Fahem drew even at 2-2 at the 50 minute mark.
Berkovic’s team kept Maccabi backpedalling and the pressure paid off when Reef Mesika sent a stunner past Gianniotis to the far left hand corner of the goal in the 78th minute to complete the comeback and move into the last-16.
“We made history,” exclaimed an excited Berkovic. “This is the biggest surprise over the last decade and I am still in shock as to what happened. Congratulations to the players and the fans, they deserve all the credit. To come back from a 2-0 deficit is something incredible especially against Maccabi, which has only given up one goal all season long.”
Goal-scorer Mesika also spoke about the victory.
“I can’t explain what has happened. I have absolutely no words. I’m living a dream. You always believe that you have a chance, but to comeback from 2-0 down? It’s unbelievable.”
A disappointed Ivic apologized for Maccabi’s result.
“We made a huge mistake at the start of the second half and allowed the hosts to come back into the game. I have to apologize to the fans, this is perhaps the worst thing that has happened since I arrived at the club. If someone has to take responsibility it’s me and not the players.”
Elsewhere, Hapoel Beersheba defeated Ashdod 4-3 in a barnburner of a contest at the port city. Hanan Manan gave the visitors a quick 2-0 lead while Oren Bitton added a goal for Barak Bachar’s squad as it went ahead 3-0 less than 25 minutes into the game.
Shlomi Azulay scored to give Ashdod hope before the end of the half, but Niv Zrihen brought the advantage back up to three goals, at 4-1, just 50 minutes into the clash.
Hamoudi Kna’an and Dean David gave the hosts hope and cut the lead to just a single marker with 20 minutes left in regulation time. In the 92nd minute, Ashdod was handed a golden opportunity to draw even with a penalty, but Shlomi Azulay’s spot kick was saved by Ernestas Setkus to send Beersheba into the next round of play.
“This was crazy,” said Bachar following the contest. “The game should have been long over when we were up 4-1 but all of sudden we gave up goal after goal and were under immense pressure. Bottom line is that we advanced and that is what’s important.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa needed 120 minutes to dispose of pesky Sektzia Ness Ziona 3-1 at Sammy Ofer Stadium. Yuval Ashkenazi scored at the stroke of halftime but Osher Abu drew the visitors even via a Raz Stain free kick in the 70th minute.
However, Dolev Haziza scored a pair of goals in the 112th via a header and in the 120th minute to get Haifa past Ness Ziona and into the next round.
“We didn’t play well and hats off to Ness Ziona,” said Greens coach Marko Balbul following the game. “Credit to them, but we moved on and that’s the key in the State Cup.”
Also, Beitar Jerusalem downed Hapoel Rishon Lezion 5-0 at Teddy Stadium. Gaetan Varene opened the scoring with a 17th minute header and Ali Muhammed added Beitar’s second goal of the game just at the stroke of halftime. Varene completed his brace early on in the second half while Ofir Kriaf and Liran Rotman scored to cap off the win.
Hapoel Tel Aviv needed overtime to beat Hapoel Katamon 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium. Eyad Abu Abaid found the back of the goal in the 103rd minute and Stefan Spirovski added an insurance marker four minutes later to advance to the next round.
In other State Cup games, Hapoel Ra’anana dropped Kiryat Malachi 4-1, Maccabi Netanya beat Tira 4-0, Bnei Yehuda got by Hapoel Hadera 2-0, Adumim Ashdod of Liat Alef snuck by Hapoel Petah Tikva 1-0, Hapoel Haifa drubbed Bnei Lod 5-1, Nof Galil surprised Hapoel Marmorek 3-1, Hapoel Kfar Kasem beat Hapoel Kfar Saba 1-0, Hapoel Afula defeated Hapoel Ashkelon 2-1, Maccabi Petah Tikva downed Kiryat Shmona 3-2, Bnei Sakhnin slipped by Ramat Hasharon 3-2 and Maccabi Bnei Reina beat Maccabi Sderot 2-0.