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Photo by: Adi Avishai
Sinai Says: A changing of the tide in TA soccer power
By ALLON SINAI
13/02/2013
After years in the shadow of its archrival, Maccabi regained the supreme position that allows it to look down at the Reds and show no mercy.
 
The significance of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 4-0 humbling of Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby on Monday night seems quite straightforward.

The victory saw Maccabi move eight points clear of second-placed Maccabi Haifa at the summit of the Premier League and crushed Hapoel’s title hopes, with the Reds dropping a massive 11 points behind the yellow-and-blue with their fourth straight defeat.

However, watching the Maccabi fans celebrate with their players long after the final whistle sounded at Bloomfield Stadium, I couldn’t help but wonder if the implications of Monday’s result weren’t far more reaching.

Maccabi hadn’t beaten Hapoel in the derby by a 4-0 score-line in over 20 years, with Eli Driks netting an unforgettable hat-trick when it last happened on October 10, 1992.

Maccabi had also thrashed Hapoel 4-0 the previous year in a derby that seemed to mark a hegemonic shift between the clubs.

There was a similar feeling at Bloomfield on Monday.

After years in the shadow of its archrival, Maccabi regained the supreme position that allows it to look down at the Reds and show no mercy.

Over the past 16 years, Maccabi has picked up just a single league championship and in recent seasons it was forced to watch the Reds celebrate time and again.

Hapoel has won the past three installments of the State Cup and completed a league and cup double in the 2009/10 season.

Maccabi entered the derby in November 1991 having gone 12 years without a championship and the 4-0 triumph remains the most memorable result of that campaign, which ended with the yellow-and-blue finally lifting the league title yet again.

Maccabi went on to win two consecutive championships in the mid- 90’s (1995-96), but it lost its way soon after.

When Canadian-Jewish billionaire Mitch Goldhar purchased the club three-and-a-half years ago, it seemed that a return to the glory days was just around the corner.

However, Maccabi was no more than a bystander in recent title races, while Hapoel hasn’t finished any lower than second place since 2008.

All that seems set to change this season, with Monday’s thrashing of Hapoel the best indication yet that another golden age is about to begin at Maccabi.

Coach Oscar Garcia’s team thoroughly outplayed Hapoel in every facet of the game and is steamrolling its opponents on the way to the championship, winning its last six home matches by a combined goal difference of 25-3.

Maccabi Haifa looks to be Oscar’s only rival for the title following its dramatic improvement, but it is hard to see the yellow-and-blue dropping an eight-point gap should it build on Monday’s display.

Any derby win is a momentous occasion for the triumphant fans.

However, Monday’s result was different.

It not only put Maccabi in the driving seat to finally win a record 19th Israeli championship, but it also provided unequivocal proof that the evolution of the club under Goldhar is finally paying dividends.

It may have taken longer than expected, but Maccabi is back.

allon@jpost.com
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