League leaders advance into cup quarters

Hapoel Tel Aviv stumbles, but recovers for 2-1 conquest of Ashkelon; Macabbi Haifa dumps Hapoel Jerusalem.

Hapoel Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa both overcame scares against lowly opposition before making it through to the quarterfinals of the State Cup on Wednesday night.
Hapoel, the reigning cup holder, took the lead against Hapoel Ashkelon after just five minutes, thanks to Toto Tamuz. But complacent play by the hosts saw Ashkelon equalize through Snir Gueta in the 36th minute.
However, Tel Aviv’s possession dominance was rewarded in the 58th minute, with Dedi Ben-Dayan scoring the winner with a superb strike from the corner of the box to give Hapoel a 2-1 victory at Bloomfield Stadium.
“We didn’t take advantage of our chances in the first half, maybe because we were slightly arrogant,” Hapoel assistant coach Yossi Abuksis said. “We should have finished off the game earlier, but we are still happy to have made it through to the quarterfinals.”
Haifa, looking to recover from Sunday’s 4-1 Premier League thrashing at the hands of Tel Aviv, fell into a shock early deficit against third-division Hapoel Jerusalem, with Greens goalkeeper Nir Davidovich inexplicably turning the ball into his own net in the 19th minute from a relatively harmless Ofir Azu cross.
However, Jerusalem’s lead lasted less than two minutes, with Tomer Hemed heading in the equalizer, before Lior Rafaelov’s accurate volley in the 66th minute ensured Haifa advanced to the next stage with a 2-1 win at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
“You could see in the first half that we were playing with absolutely no confidence,” said Haifa coach Elisha Levy, whose team hasn’t won the cup since 1998.
“Jerusalem took the lead and that slightly stressed my players, but we slowly worked our way into the match and we got through this stage which is the most important thing in the cup.”
Tel Aviv and Haifa join Betar Jerusalem, Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Maccabi Netanya, Ashdod SC, Hapoel Haifa and the last remaining National League club – Hapoel Ra’anana – in the last eight, with the quarterfinal draw to take place at Israel Football Association headquarters at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Thursday night.