Local Soccer: Betar Shimshon continues fairytale run

Cinderella team of State Cup beats Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-1; Betar J'lem advances to last four despite giving up 2-goal lead against Hap Kfar Saba.

zandberg 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
zandberg 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
The clock refuses to strike midnight for the Cinderella team of this season's State Cup, Betar/Shimshon Tel Aviv. An 88th minute goal by substitute Ido Eksbred gave third division Betar/Shimshon a 2-1 victory at Ironi Kiryat Shmona and a place in the semifinals of the cup on Wednesday. "We achieved something sensational," said Betar/Shimshon coach Ronan Weinshtein, who only took charge of the club last month. "We came back from a goal down against an excellent team and realized our dream of playing at National Stadium in Ramat Gan." Betar/Shimshon, which knocked out Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Petah Tikva in the previous two rounds, was drawn on Wednesday night to face Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Last Four. In the second semifinal Maccabi Netanya will play Betar Jerusalem, which defeated Hapoel Kfar Saba 3-2 on Wednesday to advance to the Last Four. Both semifinals will take place on April 16 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan. Jerusalem took an early 2-0 lead at Teddy Stadium on Wednesday, but two Kfar Saba goals in the space of two second half minutes tied the score. Betar would, however, avoid extra-time thanks to Yoav Ziv's 85th minute winner. "We advanced to the semifinals and that's all that matters," Betar coach Yitzhak Schum said. "I had a few anxious moments when Kfar Saba equalized, but a good team knows how to win also when it's not at its best and that's what we did." In Kiryat Shmona, the hosts seized control of the match right from the kickoff and took a deserved lead in the 24th minute. Yaniv Lavi headed down Guy Tzarfati's free kick into the path of Ironi's top scorer Yuval Avidor, who slotted the ball home from five meters out. A minute before stoppage time the visitors, who are only four points above the third division's relegation zone, scored against the run of play, but the goal was wrongly disallowed. Substitute Eksbred, who entered the match seven minutes earlier, headed the ball past keeper Shavit Elimelech, but the referee's assistant raised his flag for an offside to Tel Aviv's amazement. Kiryat Shmona was content with its one goal lead and paid the price for its defensive tactics in the 65th minute. Ofer Shitrit's header slammed off the post, but Eksbred was in the right place to blast in the equalizer. The hosts began to push forward once more after conceding the goal, but a horrible Elimelech mistake in the 88th minute gifted Betar/Shimshon the win, when he left his net inexplicably to give Eksbred an easy score. At Teddy, Betar Jerusalem took the lead after a mere 51 seconds. Romulo cut the Kfar Saba defense to ribbons and the ball fell to the feet of Amit Ben-Shushan, who scored from five meters out. The early lead gave the hosts a stranglehold on the match and in the 26th minute the champion elect seemed to all but have clinched its place in the last four. Aviram Bruchian surged down Hapoel's right flank and his cross was easily turned in by Ben-Shushan after Kfar Saba keeper Ohad Levita pushed the ball into the path of the Jerusalem striker. Kfar Saba coach Eli Ohana introduced striker Bill Gonzalez in the second half and the visitors finally began to create scoring opportunities. In the 73rd minute Gonzalez made the most of a Derek Boateng defensive blunder and gave the visitors a lifeline. Less than two minutes later Hapoel grabbed a stunning equalizer. Ofer Talker cleverly spotted that Jerusalem keeper Tvrtko Kale was poorly placed and directed his free kick from 25 meters out into the left bottom corner of the Betar goal. Kfar Saba's hearts, however, were broken in the 85th minute when Bruchian found an unmarked Ziv on the edge of the area and the defender blasted in the winner. "We weren't in the match for the first 25 minutes, but in the second half we were better than Betar. We never gave up and tied the score at 2-2. I think we squandered a huge opportunity tonight," Ohana said.