Maccabi are into the State Cup quarter finals for the first time in a decade after defeating Hapoel Ashkelon 1-0 at Bloomfield
No walk in the park by any means, but by the end of 94 minutes play at Bloomfield Stadium Maccabi Tel Aviv have booked themselves a place in the Israeli State Cup quarter finals for the first time since the 2004/05 season. They left it late but finally, just six minutes from time, long-injured striker Barak Itzhaki once again worked his Cup-tie magic, beating an off-side trap to score magnificently and put the home side 1-0 up against third division rivals Hapoel Ashkelon. The visitors held out bravely for most of the match but will now return to league duties with just the memory of their sensational 8th round defeat of Israeli Premier League superpower Beitar Jerusalem.
Midfielder Mahran Radi opened the assault for the home side in the 9th minute, bamboozling two defenders before shooting just wide of the net. Two minutes later young midfielder Ben Reichert took hold of an errant ball and slammed it from the air over the goal. On 20 minutes Barak Itzhaki received a sumptuous cross from Mahran Radi to the left of the goal but narrowly missed his first shot on target, a near repetition of his spectacular overhead goal last year against Maccabi Haifa. Four minutes from the break it was Radi again threatening the Ashkelon goal, this time with a free kick that went slightly wide. Practically on the stroke of half time young defender Dor Peretz got a foot to a long ball inside the Ashkelon area but keeper Galil Ben Shanan was there again to block the effort and send the sides off in a goalless deadlock.
Four minutes after the restart Ben Reichert once again came close to scoring, heading a corner just inches wide. On 52 minutes Hapoel Ashkelon saw their best chance of the match dashed when Maccabi keeper Barak Levy ventured ambitiously far off his line to block an effort by striker Lior Asulin, who had captured a ball behind the Maccabi back line. Two minutes later Mahran Radi again tried his luck from distance, followed in close order by a breakthrough by young defender Sean Goldberg, passing on to midfielder Dan Einbinder whose shot was blocked by the keeper. Just past the hour mark midfielder Eran Zahavi came off the bench and immediately left his mark with a smart cross to Barak Badash in the area but the forward volleyed wide. On 68 minutes Sean Goldberg shot straight at the keeper but it wasn't until six minutes from time that Maccabi finally got their goal when a Mahran Radi cross found Barak Itzhaki charging ahead of the Ashkelon defence, and the veteran striker volleyed home to put Maccabi ahead 1-0. Ashkelon almost equalised when a free kick by captain Shay Revivo found striker Sharon Gormazno in the area, but Barak Levy was there to stop the header. In injury time striker Eden Ben Basat missed a chance to secure Maccabi's victory with a second goal when his shot inside the area flew over. But in the end the one goal sufficed to send Maccabi through to the quarter finals of the prestigious Israeli State Cup competition for the first time in a decade.