A last-gasp Gal Cohen own-goal cost Bnei Yehuda two more precious points in the battle against relegation, gifting Maccabi Haifa a 2-2 draw at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Sunday night.
Bnei Yehuda moved into the lead after less than three minutes thanks to Oz Raly’s spectacular free-kick from 20 meters out. Ohad Kadusi doubled the team’s advantage eight minutes from the break, but Bnei Yehuda would once more squander a seemingly comfortable lead, yet again in stoppage time.
Shoval Gozlan handed Haifa a lifeline with his header in the 71st minute and a dreadful mistake by goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba in the sixth minute of stoppage time resulted in an own goal that left Bnei Yehuda rooted to the bottom of the Premier League standings.
“It is so disappointing not to win a match like this,” said Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abuksis, whose team is one point back of both Hapoel Ramat Hasharon and Maccabi Petah Tikva.
“We will find it very difficult to avoid relegation if we continue like this. We are playing well, but gifting our opponents goals every week.”
Despite the late drama, the match was overshadowed by a horrific injury suffered by Bnei Yehuda midfielder Rafi Dahan. Haifa’s Spanish midfielder Rayo brutally lunged at Dahan in the 84th minute, likely breaking his leg with the vicious two-legged assault.
Bnei Yehuda will have to manage without Dahan, who faces a lengthy recovery, until the end of the season, while Rayo is set to face a harsh suspension from the Israel Football Association and may well have also played his last match of the campaign for Haifa.
On Monday, league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv aims to open a four-point gap over Hapoel Beersheba when it hosts Beitar Jerusalem in Netanya due to a punishment it received for its fans’ unruly behavior.
Maccabi will be targeting its 14th victory from the past 16 matches, but coach Paulo Sousa will likely be without his favorite pairing in the center of the defense.
Eitan Tibi is expected to be rested after suffering a muscle strain in last week’s win over Hapoel Ra’anana, with Carlos Garcia also doubtful for the match. Sousa should at least have Shiran Yeini in his lineup after the defender missed Israel’s international friendly against Slovakia last week.
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