Ironi Kiryat Shmona blew the Premier League title race wide open on Monday
night, stunning league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-1.
Maccabi entered the
match on the back of a seven-match winning streak, building a six-point gap at
the top of the standing over Hapoel Beersheba ahead of the weekend’s action with
13 victories from its first 16 games.
However, Beersheba reduced the
margin to three points with Saturday’s dramatic 2-1 win at Bnei Yehuda and
Kiryat Shmona kept the southerners within striking distance by handing the
yellow- and-blue its second defeat of the season on Monday.
they were better than us and deserved to win,” said Maccabi coach Paulo
“This is the biggest win of my career,” admitted Kiryat Shmona
coach Barak Bachar.
A dreadful defensive blunder gifted Kiryat Shmona the
lead after less than five minutes. The usually reliable Nikola Mitrovic sent an
inaccurate back-pass towards goalkeeper Juan Pablo and Barak Badash capitalized
with a clever shot from 25 meters out that left the backtracking stopper with no
It wasn’t long before the hosts doubled their advantage, with
Mindaugas Panka left all alone in the center of the box in the 23rd minute to
smash in Kiryat Shmona’s second goal of the night to the disbelief of Juan
Not only was Maccabi’s typically stingy defense leaking goals in
uncharacteristic fashion, but the defending champion also created very little on
the offensive end.
Kiryat Shmona ’keeper Guy Haimov didn’t have to make a
difficult save until two min utes to halftime when defender Eitan Tibi tested
him from long distance.
Eran Zahavi squandered a golden opportunity to
hand his team a lifeline three minutes into the second half, although Haimov
also deserves plenty of credit for keeping out the midfielder’s powerful effort
from close range.
There was no way back for Maccabi after Kiryat Shmona
scored its third goal in the 69th minute.
Badash sent an unstoppable
effort into the top right corner from the center of the box, sparking jubilation
in the stands and in Beersheba, which was dampened in no way by Zahavi’s
consolation goal four minutes from time.