After missing the start of the season through injury, Maccabi Haifa striker Eliran Atar has returned to the team’s starting lineup in its past four Premier League matches, scoring four goals. .
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Eliran Atar’s 88th-minute penalty and a Gili Vermouth stoppage-time goal piled the misery on Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday night, handing Maccabi Haifa a 2-0 win in Petah Tikva.
Both teams reached numerous chances during the match, but the deadlock wasn’t broken until two minutes from time courtesy of Atar’s spot kick.
Substitute Nikita Rukavytsya was brought down in the box by Orel Dgani and Atar sent goalkeeper Ariel Harush the wrong way for his sixth goal in the past eight matches. Former Hapoel star Gili Vermouth, who also entered the match from the bench, secured the three points in the 94th minute, making the most of a mistake by Harush, who had been one of Hapoel’s best players for much of the match.
Haifa climbed up to third place in the standings after snapping a three-game winless streak. The Greens moved within a single point of Maccabi Tel Aviv in second place with what was just their second win from eight roads matches this season.
“This is a very important win for us,” said Haifa coach Rene Meulensteen.
“We played some good football, but didn’t always get the results we deserve.
We had to dig deep. There was of a lot of emotions in the game and they had their chances. It was nerve-racking win.
“We want to try and finish as high as possible,” added Meulensteen.
“We need to make sure that we improve on the first 13 games. We should have had more points and our aim is to improve on that.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv remained just four points above the relegation zone having won only one of its last seven matches.
“Nothing seems to be going our way,” said Hapoel coach Guy Luzon.
“Every player did everything he could and I have no complaints. I think a draw would have been a fair result and it is a shame we lost.”
Hapoel’s situation is vastly complicated by its dire state off the pitch. The club future remains shrouded in doubt, with the its trustees trying to save the club from bankruptcy after the Tel Aviv District Court approved last week a request for a stay of legal proceedings due to debts estimated at over NIS 100 million.
The trustees need to present the court with a new potential owner to replace Amir Kabiri by December 27. Lawyer Shaul Kotler said on Sunday that he believes there is a good chance to find a new owner despite the tight schedule as the club will be sold without debt.
Hapoel could find itself in a far tougher situation on January 11 should judge Eitan Orenstein approve the nine-point deduction the club is set to be handed according to Israel Football Association regulations.
“I’m doing my best to focus on what is happening on the pitch,” insisted Luzon. “We can’t waste energy on everything that is happening off the pitch. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow and I only hope that the club will find a new owner as soon as possible and that will change everything.”