State Cup Soccer: Itzhaki winner saves Betar's blushes in thrilling 4-3 Cup victory

Betar Jerusalem came back from a goal down three times to record a scintillating victory.

Barak Itzhaki betar mac ta 248 88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Barak Itzhaki betar mac ta 248 88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem came back from a goal down three times on Sunday night to record a scintillating 4-3 victory at Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the ninth round of the State Cup. The reigning Premier League champion and State Cup holder trailed 2-1 at halftime after a dismal first 45 minutes, but looked like its old self in the second half and thanks to Barak Itzhaki's 84th minute goal clinched its place in the last 16 of the cup. Itzhaki and strike partner Amit Ben-Shushan scored a brace each to lead Betar to a victory, which quite probably saved coach Reuven Atar's job and may also breath new life into what seemed to be a club in ruin. "This feels very good after such a tumultuous week," Atar said. "I dedicate this victory to all the fans, who criticized me and the players. They deserve this win." "We showed a lot of character by coming back three times," Ben-Shushan said. "Kiryat Shmona fought hard and I'm glad we won. It's difficult to forget what happened last week and I'm hoping this win gets us back on track." Just six days after suffering a 4-0 humbling at the hands of arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv, and only four days after each member of the first team squad was fined NIS 10,000 by the club for that embarrassing performance, Betar looked completely apathetic once more at the start of Sunday's match. The hosts looked to take advantage of Betar's dreariness right from the start and grabbed the opener after eight minutes. Yuval Avidor lost Cristian Alvarez on the right flank and the speedy striker raced into the box and slotted the ball under 'keeper Ariel Harush. Kiryat Shmona continued to dominate the proceedings in the subsequent minutes, but Betar would score the equalizer in the 30th minute thanks to a superb Ben-Shushan solo effort. The nimble forward picked up the ball 40 meters from Ironi's goal and beat off challenges from the Kiryat Shmona defense before sending a precise shot beyond 'keeper Yossi Betzalel. 'However, it would take the hosts less than a minute to regain their lead thanks to a cracking finish by Tomer Swisa. Avidor attempted to shoot at goal, but his shot turned into a cross after Swisa slid-in to smash the ball into the top left corner and put Kiryat Shmona in front once more. Betar finally showed a little urgency at the start of the second half and got its reward in the 65th minute. Shimon Gershon was pulled down in the box by Ran Kojok and Itzhaki converted the penalty to tie the score. In the 76th minute, Itzhaki spurned an excellent chance to give Betar the lead and just two minutes later the cup holder was made to pay. A clever free kick move by Guy Tzarfati found Avidor in plenty of space and Jerusalem found itself behind once again. However, this time it was Betar's turn to equalize after just one minute, with Aviram Bruchian threading the ball through to Ben-Shushan to score his second goal of the match. Six minutes before the final whistle, Jerusalem finally completed its comeback. Itzhaki released an unstoppable effort from the edge of the box and broke Kiryat Shmona hearts and booked Betar's place in the draw for the round of 16. On Monday, the ninth round will be completed when Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.