Hapoel Tel Aviv players celebrating.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Tel Aviv aims to record consecutive derby wins over Maccabi Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1999/2000 season on Monday night, while the yellow-andblue looks to avoid an upset and continue its surge towards a third straight Premier League championship.
Hapoel defeated Maccabi 3-1 in last season’s final derby, recording its first win over its arch-rival since November 2012. However, while the reds may have snapped a six-match winless streak in the derby, they remain clear underdogs entering Monday’s showdown.
For a third straight season, Maccabi has got the campaign off to a flying start. The two-time defending champion will be targeting its sixth victory in seven matches on Monday, after winning seven of eight contests to start 2012/13 and six of seven last term.
Maccabi seems to be improving with every match and even when it has found itself in trouble, the unstoppable Eran Zahavi has come to its rescue.
The midfielder extended his record scoring run to 11 consecutive games with two goals in last week’s 5-2 win over Ashdod SC, taking his overall tally during the streak, which stretches back to last season, to 17 tallies .
The yellow-and-blue looks to have hit top form just in time for the derby, putting three goals past Maccabi Haifa, scoring four against Hapoel Acre and five versus Ashdod over its last three matches.
Maccabi coach Pako Ayesteran finally has a full squad at his disposal, but he insisted that his team has prepared for the derby just like it would for any other match.
“No, nothing different because it’s one more game with three points on the line,” said Pako. “I hope that in the long term of the season we will be better than them but in one game anything can happen.”
Hapoel coach Asi Domb echoed Pako’s sentiment.
“This is just another game even though this is the derby,” he said.
“We are aware of how important this match is to the fans and we want to win for them and prove to everyone that we are a good team.”
Also Monday, first-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Beitar Jerusalem.
Kiryat Shmona has won five straight matches, while Beitar is undefeated so far this season.
On Sunday, Maccabi Netanya rebounded from an early deficit to claim a 3-1 win over Hapoel Petah Tikva.
A mix-up between Netanya goalkeeper Ariel Harush and defender Oded Gavish gifted Shahar Hirsh the opener after less than two minutes.
However, Netanya scored three times in 10 second-half minutes to clinch the win.
The turning point arrived in the 58th minute following a controversial call by referee Orel Greenfeld, who awarded Netanya a penalty and sent off Petah Tikva’s Michael Tukura. Eran Levy equalized from the penalty spot and Olarenwaju Kayode (60, 67) scored twice to wrap up the win.