Maccabi beat Kiryat Shmona 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate to book their place in the State Cup semi-finals
Three times this season Maccabi Tel Aviv have faced Ironi Kiryat Shmona and failed to register a victory. And after conceding an injury-time equaliser at Kiryat Shmona in the first leg of their State Cup quarter final tie last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv had left even their most loyal fans on a knife's edge in the run-up to the return leg in Tel Aviv. But tonight at Bloomfield Stadium, after playing five games in sixteen days, a refreshed and energetic looking home side left in absolutely no doubt who was in command of the tie as they thrashed their northern opponents 3-0 to book their place in the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in a decade. Ex-Kiryat Shmona striker Barak Badash opened the scoring in the first half and four minutes later Eran Zahavi doubled the home-side advantage. The star midfielder scored his second and Maccabi's third from the spot twenty minutes from time and while Kiryat Shmona showed intent in spurts, they never seriously challenged an excellent defensive display by the entire Maccabi back line.
From the kick-off a spirited and attack-minded Maccabi side made amply clear they had no intention of resting on the laurels of their away-goal advantage from the first leg. Their first real scoring chance came on 23 minutes when a revitalised Eran Zahavi struck a potent free kick that glanced off the Kiryat Shmona crossbar. Riding on the early-match momentum, Barak Badash made good just three minutes later after collecting a deflected Mahran Radi pass in the area and slicing it over the head of Kiryat Shmona keeper Guy Haimov to put Maccabi out in front 1-0. The ecstatic Maccabi crowd had hardly caught their breath when four minutes after that Zahavi struck again, this time with success, after coming out on top of a scramble in the Kiryat Shmona area. At the other end an excellent shot by ex-Maccabi midfielder Ro'I Kahat drew a fine save from Maccabi keeper Juan Pablo, but the 2-0 advantage held till half time.
Maccabi returned after the break in the same frame of mind as beforehand and just three minutes in a clever pass from captain Sheran Yeini found Dor Micha one-on-one with the Kiryat Shmona keeper but the latter pushed the midfielder's effort aside for a corner. In the minutes that followed the visiting side enjoyed a period of possession and midfielders Ahad Azam and Ahmed Abed both tested the Maccabi keeper, but an in-form Juan Pablo was not to be beaten. On 66 minutes Tal Ben Chaim replaced first-half goalscorer Badash and made an immediate impact that effectively put the tie beyond Kiryat Shmona's grasp. The winger's clever charge on goal three minutes later was brought to an abrupt end when he was upended in the area by Haimov, and Eran Zahavi's second on the night from the penalty spot demolished any hopes Kiryat Shmona may have had of getting back into the tie.
After three minutes of time added on the scoreboard still read 3-0 and 12,000 elated Maccabi fans rose to their feet in appreciation. Maccabi win the tie 4-1 on aggregate and will now await the draw to see who will be their opponents in the Israeli State Cup semi-finals, title rivals Hapoel Beer Sheva or one of the two minnows from the second division "Leumit" league, Maccabi Ahi Nazareth and Hapoel Afula.
Photographs – Nir Keider