ISRAELI SOCCER made the headlines for all the wrong reasons once again on Monday night, with players from Maccabi Tel Aviv – including Tal Ben-Haim (left) and Eran Zahavi (center) – and Bnei Sakhnin players clashing following a 0-0 draw in Premier League action at Doha Stadium..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Since losing 2-1 to Hapoel Beersheba at Bloomfield Stadium back in December of last year, Maccabi Tel Aviv has been playing catch-up with its Premier League title rival.
Maccabi has led the standings for a day or two over the past four months due to the schedule, occasionally taking advantage of the fact that it won its matches before Beersheba had played.
However, it has been Beersheba which has dictated the pace since that victory in Tel Aviv, entering every weekend at the summit.
That run could end on Monday should Maccabi defeat Beitar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium.
The three-time defending champion enters the showdown two points back of Beersheba after the leader could only manage a 1-1 draw against Maccabi Haifa at Turner Stadium on Saturday, a fourth straight home draw for Barak Bachar’s team.
Maccabi, on the other hand, has gathered momentum over recent weeks, claiming its sixth win in seven games by defeating Hapoel Ra’anana 3-0 last week. The yellowand- blue’s only draw over that stretch came at Beersheba, with Maccabi unbeaten in its last 14 matches, since that loss against Beersheba last year.
The two teams will meet one final time in league action at Bloomfield in three weeks, but Maccabi coach Peter Bosz is not thinking that far ahead, with Maccabi yet to defeat Beitar this season, losing 4-2 the last time they played at Bloomfield.
“Of course the Beersheba result was good for us, but that’s only one thing. Now we must get a good result against Beitar,” said Bosz on Sunday. “This match is very important and we are focused on that.
However, the most important game will be on Matchday 36. Even if we do win, the season is not over and if we lose, the campaign isn’t over as well.”
Bosz said he is not preparing anything special for the match. “I watch Barcelona.
Everyone knows how they play and they still win. I believe that if we play the way we can, no one will be able to stop us,” he explained.
Beitar, which has third place all but wrapped up, enters the match in the midst of its first losing streak this season, falling 2-0 to both Bnei Sakhnin and Beersheba.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Petah Tikva effectively guaranteed itself another season in the top flight with a 2-0 win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday, while Hapoel Tel Aviv took a significant step towards securing its survival with a 1-0 victory at already-relegated Maccabi Netanya.
Rade Prica (28) and Dor Hugi (77) scored for Petah Tikva, with Kiryat Shmona playing with 10 men from the 38th minute following Oded Elkayam’s sending off.
Petah Tikva (39) moved 10 points clear of the relegation zone with four matches to play, while Kiryat Shmona (31) sits just two points above Hapoel Haifa (29).
“There are some people who doubted my qualifications and thought I wasn’t worthy of guiding the team but we have stayed up,” said Petah Tikva coach Danny Golan, who replaced the sacked Ran Ben-Shimon last month despite not having any previous Premier League experience.
Hapoel Tel Aviv holds a seven-point cushion on the bottom two after combining three consecutive wins for the first time this season on Sunday. Sagiv Yehezkel scored the only goal of the match in the 36th minute.