Kiryat Shmona marches toward treble

League-leader advances to last 16; Betar KS shocks Hap Rishon; Hap TA, Mac Haifa cruise.

Omer Damari playing against Maccabi Yavne 390 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Omer Damari playing against Maccabi Yavne 390
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s dream of claiming an unprecedented treble is still alive after the northerners advanced to the last 16 of the State Cup on Wednesday night, while Betar Kfar Saba of the third division continued its Cinderella run, stunning Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the Premier League.
Kiryat Shmona has already claimed the Toto Cup and is well on course to taking an historic championship, leading the league standings by 12 points.
No Israeli team has ever won all three local trophies in the same season, but Kiryat Shmona moved one significant step closer to becoming the first on Wednesday, beating Hapoel Haifa 1-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium thanks to Ravid Gazal’s 36th minute goal.
The visitors lost Lior Levy to a red card in the 71st minute, but held off Haifa in the closing stages, with its stellar defense keeping yet another clean sheet.
Betar Kfar Saba is currently only in fourth place in Liga Alef Darom, but it never looked inferior to Rishon Lezion of the top-flight, winning 2-0 at Haberfeld Stadium.
Kobi Domer (16) scored the opener and the visitors clinched their progress in the 71st minute after Effi Alon converted a spot kick gifted to Kfar Saba by David Gomez, who was also sent off.
“This match was really important to me,” said Kfar Saba coach Haim Sirotkin. “You don’t get paid much in the third division. I had my motorbike stolen this week and was promised by a sponsor that he would buy me a new one if we beat Rishon.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa put aside their disappointing league campaigns on Wednesday and progressed to the last 16 with easy victories over inferior opponents.
Hapoel defeated third division Maccabi Yavne 3-0, with Mahmoud Abbas (25), Omer Damari (71) and Maharan Lala (92) scoring for the Reds.
Haifa, which hasn’t won the cup since 1998, beat Maccabi Beersheba 2- 1 at Vasermil Stadium.
New defender Edin Cocalic headed in the opener from a corner kick after 36 minutes, with Eyal Meshumar clinching Haifa’s progress from the penalty spot in the 81st before Adir Danin netted a stoppage- time consolation goal for the hosts.
“The only important thing in the cup is to advance, just ask Maccabi Tel Aviv and Betar Jerusalem,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said.
Hapoel Ramat Hasharon has only won one of its last 10 league matches, but it advanced to the next round of the cup with an emphatic 3-1 win over Hapoel Acre on Wednesday.
Efraim Aspa (20) and Tomer Swisa (34, 73) scored for Ramat Hasharon, with Sintiyahu Salalik (82) finding the back of the net for Acre.
Ashdod SC has also had trouble hitting top form in the league in recent weeks, winning just one of its last seven matches.
However, like Ramat Hasharon, it too defeated a Premier League opponent on Wednesday to reach the last 16, thrashing Hapoel Petah Tikva 3-0.
Efe Ambrose (44), Amir Lavi (67) and Rodgers Kola (74) scored for Ashdod.
Wednesday’s winners join Maccabi Petah Tikva, Hapoel Beersheba, Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Jerusalem, Bnei Lod, Maccabi Herzliya, Hapoel Ramat Gan, Upper Nazareth, Hapoel Kfar Saba and Maccabi Umm el-Fahm, who all progressed to the last 16 on Tuesday.