Hapoel Beer Sheva began their 7-0 onslaught and demolition of Hapoel Afula in the 3rd minute. Maccabi Tel Aviv seemed to begin theirs in minute number two against Ahi Nazareth, however that’s not exactly how the 3-0 win went down at Teddy Stadium,
The Israel State Cup final at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa will pit arguably the two best clubs in Ligat Ha’Al this season but each side took a very different route to make it there. After Beer Sheva’s display everyone thought that the yellow and blue would have the same type of match against the Greens of Nazareth. But the club who made plenty of noise prior to the game by honoring fugitive terrorist Azmi Bishara who secured funds from Qatar to help various Arab Israeli teams including Nazareth and Bnei Sakhnin made plenty of noise during the game as well.
Somehow Maccabi Tel Aviv couldn’t find the right ingredients to put away the 2nd division team that left coach Pako Ayestaran scratching his head. Though coach Pako started Gal Margulies and Dan Einbinder, both of whom have not played many minutes this year and he left Dor Micha out of the squad and Tal Ben Chaim on the bench the squad just couldn’t get things to click.
With Eran Zahavi for Maccabi scoring in the second minute of the match off a free kick, the club brought in Rada Prica for an ineffective Eden Ben Bassat at the half and then flipped Nosa Igiebor for Dan Einbinder and things got a bit better for the back to back champions. Prica finally added a much needed insurance goal while Nikola Motrovic rounded out the scoring in the 89th minute.
The fact is that Nazareth pressured Maccabi for the better part of he first half and created a number of quality scoring chances out playing Maccabi over the first 45 minutes. The Greens dominated the play at times as well giving Maccabi fits and having keeper Juan Pablo having to make a couple of high quality saves. This was not what they had bargained for.
In the first game Beer Sheva put on a show with Dovev Gabbay clinching a hat trick, Shlomi Arbeitman with a brace and the struggling Maor Melikson and Evyatar Illuz with the other two goals. Afula was nowhere to found on the pitch with no chances and no room to breathe against the desert side. In an ironic twist Gabbay’s father Moshe played for Afula many years back and here was his son putting on a fantastic performance against his dad’s club!
The evening was a true and powerful showing by the Ligat Ha’Al teams scoring a combined 10 goals while conceding none. But Maccabi’s first half in their semi final tilt was definitely a red flag or card being waved in Pako’s face. If he wants to ensure his team finishes the year off strong he’s got to take the warning very seriously in order to compete the Treble. Lackluster play by his side and lazy passes won’t cut it going towards the finish line and this is especially true with Hapoel Beer Sheva wanting to show that their year was successful and a State Cup win over Maccabi will do just that.
Elisha Levy and his players know that to prove to the Beer Sheva faithful and owner Alona Barkat it will be critical to finish the year off strong both in the league and a State Cup win. Can they do it? That remains to be seen. However, with Dovev Gabbay scoring a hat trick and Shlomi Arbeitman picking up a brace along with Maor Melikson playing a central figure in the 7-0 trouncing over Afula this may have been the best medicine for the team and will give them the confidence going forward.
Maccabi last won the Cup in 2005 and they sure want to put an end to that drought and give Pako something his two predecessors couldn’t do which was win the Israel State Cup. If he does he will be the King of Maccabi and will mostly certainly earn himself a chance to take the club through UEFA Champions League qualifying. Winning the Treble would be quite the accomplishment, now he just needs to make sure that his players think so as well.