Reds look to salvage season in cup

Local Soccer: The Reds have failed to even score a single goal from open play in their past 729 minutes on field.

 Hapoel Tel Aviv's Tel Ben-Haim 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Hapoel Tel Aviv's Tel Ben-Haim 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Nothing seems to be going right for Hapoel Tel Aviv in recent months.
The Reds were expected to challenge for the Premier League championship until the final whistle of the season, but have failed to even score a single goal from open play in their past 729 minutes on field.
It was exactly two months ago that Tal Ben- Haim netted that goal in a 3-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin, giving Hapoel a two-point lead over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the league standings.
However, since that match, Hapoel has won just one of eight league encounters, dropping to fourth place in the table, an unassailable 17 points behind the rampant Maccabi.
Coach Yossi Abuksis was sacked and Freddy David took his place, but Tel Aviv’s talented squad has shown little improvement, winning just one of its three matches under the new boss, drawing its past two, including a 0-0 deadlock at rock-bottom Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
With only European qualification left to play for in the league, the State Cup has suddenly become a priority for Hapoel.
Hapoel became the first team in 73 years to lift the cup three years in a row last season and extended its unbeaten streak in the competition to 17 matches by edging Hapoel Kfar Saba of the National League 1-0 to progress to the quarterfinals.
Tel Aviv was handed another comfortable draw in the last eight and will be confident of overcoming Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals.
“Hapoel is more talented than we are, but talent alone will not decide the game,” said Rishon coach Eyal Lachman.
Also Tuesday, the only remaining third-division side in the draw, Asi Gilboa, will look to continue its Cinderella run when it hosts Hapoel Ramat Gan, while Ironi Kiryat Shmona welcomes Bnei Sakhnin and new coach Marco Balbul in an all- Premier League-showdown.
After stunning Maccabi Tel Aviv in the last 16, and just three days after being humbled 5-0 by the yellow-and-blue in league action, Beitar Jerusalem will host in-form Maccabi Haifa at Teddy Stadium on Wednesday.
Balbul was named Sakhnin coach on Monday, replacing the sacked Shlomi Dora. Sakhnin dropped to a 2-0 defeat at Kiryat Shmona on Saturday, extending its winless streak to five matches and leaving it just a single point above the relegation zone.
“Sakhnin’s situation is complicated, but we are still ahead of the relegation zone,” said Balbul, who led Sakhnin to a seventh-place finish in the 2009/10 season. “Kiryat Shmona is in good form, but we are just one game away from reaching the cup semifinals at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.”
On Monday, Ashdod SC claimed just its second win in 15 league matches, beating Bnei Yehuda 2-1.
David Revivo gave Ashdod the lead with a penalty in the 61st minute, but Pedro Galvan equalized from the spot five minutes later before Stefan aScepovic scored the winner (71) after another five minutes.