Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Maccabi Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium on Monday night.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv still has some work to do in order to officially wrap up a third consecutive Premier League championship after drawing 1-1 with Maccabi Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium on Monday night.
Tel Aviv is still eight points clear of second-place Hapoel Beersheba and third-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona, and with just four matches remaining for each team it is in all likelihood only a matter of time until the yellow-andblue clinches another league title.
Nevertheless, a defeat at Beersheba next week could place a little pressure on Maccabi, which has struggled on the road in recent months.
The visitors dominated the start of Monday’s showdown and took a deserved lead through Eran Zahavi in the 12th minute. The midfielder found himself all alone in the center of the box and after having his initial header saved by goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic found the back of the net with the rebound.
Zahavi took his tally for the season to 27 goals, three shy of Nissim Elmalich’s record for goals in a season from the 1954/55 campaign. However, Zahavi will only have three more matches to try and break the record as he will be suspended from his team’s upcoming match against Kiryat Shmona after picking up a fifth yellow card this season late in the first half.
Haifa took time to hit its stride, but didn’t take long to make its possession count when it finally did. Taleb Tawatha did all the hard work down the left flank in the 35th minute and Spanish midfielder Rayo slotted in the equalizer.
“Considering how the second half went, I’m pleased with the result,” said Maccabi coach Pako Ayestaran.
Haifa remained in fifth place, two points behind Beitar Jerusalem in fourth, which will secure Europa League qualification for next season.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t win,” said Haifa coach Marco Balbul. “From the 20th minute on we dominated the match and it is a shame we didn’t make the most of our chances.”
Elsewhere on Monday, the Israel Football Association announced that Arik Benado has been unanimously recommended by a selection committee to be named as the new under-21 national team coach.
Benado, who guided Maccabi Haifa last season, will also continue at his current position as an assistant coach to Eli Gutman at the senior national team which he has held since last February.
The decision to hand Benado another role is believed to also be a result of the association’s financial struggles.