Hapoel Ra’anana players celebrate with striker Evans Kangwa (right), with Maccabi Tel Aviv goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic (95) looking on.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After discovering how difficult life can be in the Champions League group stage, Maccabi Tel Aviv was reminded on Sunday that it can’t take anything for granted in the Premier League either, suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Hapoel Ra’anana at Bloomfield Stadium.
Maccabi was thoroughly outplayed in a 4-0 loss to Chelsea in their group stage opener last week, but it was extremely confident of bouncing back at home against Ra’anana.
However, it was frustrated by a resilient Ra’anana on Sunday, which netted the winner through Snir Shuker in the 90th minute after conceding an equalizer two minutes earlier.
Ra’anana striker Evans Kangwa scored with his team’s first attempt on goal in the 32nd minute, and despite completely dominating proceedings, Maccabi had to wait until two minutes from time to level the score through substitute Barak Itzhaki.
However, just when it seemed that Maccabi had survived a mighty scare, Shuker struck at the other end, handing the yellow-and-blue its first league defeat in a meaningful home match in more than two years.
Tel Aviv lost to Maccabi Petah Tikva in the final match of last season after it had already wrapped up its third straight league title, with its previous defeat at Bloomfield in league action coming in May 2013.
“We didn’t have enough energy and power and we played so slowly,” said Maccabi coach Slavisa Jokanovic after seeing his side drop to its first loss in the league. “We didn’t defend in two situations and they scored two goals. They deserved this result and we must improve 100 percent. We relaxed after equalizing and they punished us. We are playing in two hard competitions and we must be ready after we play in Europe to compete in the Israeli league.”
Ra’anana moved up to second place in the standings, ahead of Maccabi on goal difference.
“The gaps between the teams are massive on paper and we had no choice but to play the way we did,” said Ra’anana coach Haim Silvas. “I saw Mourinho do the same when he was coaching Inter Milan and they played Barcelona. We showed our spirit and I’m so proud of these players.”
Ra’anana barely broke out of its own half in the first half an hour, but the visitor needed just one chance to break the deadlock. Kangwa picked the ball up on the halfway line in the 32nd minute and raced unchallenged to the edge of the Maccabi box before releasing an accurate effort into the bottom right corner.
Ra’anana was content on sitting back with the score tied at 0-0, so it was more than happy to continue doing so after moving in front. Tel Aviv continued to control the possession, but struggled to breach Ra’anana’s defense, despite sending in winger Tal Ben-Haim and striker Itzhaki at halftime.
Maccabi was fortunate not to find itself down to 10 men after defender Tal Ben-Haim twice lashed out at Ra’anana players, only for referee Erez Papir and his assistants to somehow miss both incidents.