After eight years in the Premier League, Maccabi Netanya was relegated from the
top flight on Saturday night, suffering a 3-0 home defeat to Hapoel
Hapoel Haifa, Beitar Jerusalem, Beersheba, Hapoel Acre, Bnei
Sakhnin and Netanya all entered Saturday in danger of facing demotion to the
National League, with each team having its fate in its own hands as the six
sides all played each other.
There were essentially an infinite amount of
scenarios for Saturday, but Beersheba’s emphatic victory over Netanya rendered
the draws between Sakhnin and Jerusalem and Acre and Haifa as meaningless and
sent Netanya down to the second division for the first time since
“This is really painful,” said Netanya coach Reuven Atar, who
joined the team less than two months ago and was also at the helm when the side
was relegated in 2003. “I’m not disappointed for myself, but for this club which
I really love and has got great potential. Beersheba was several levels better
than we were.
The league will miss Netanya and I hope this club will be
able to return to the Premier League next season.”
Netanya knew that it
had to at least draw with Beersheba to have any chance of climbing out of 13th
place, but it was outplayed from the first whistle.
Beersheba kept its
best performance of the campaign for its last match, taking the lead in the 29th
minute through a superb Dovev Gabai free kick before doubling its advantage five
minutes later thanks to Siraj Nassar’s strike from the edge of the
Netanya went in search of a lifeline at the start of the second
half, but it lost all hope in the 65th minute after Gabai scored one of the
goals of the season, picking up the ball at the halfway line and beating three
players before sending an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. “We played
our best game when it mattered most,” said Beersheba’s delighted coach Elisha
The news of Beersheba’s lead in Netanya quickly filtered through to
the stadiums in Sakhnin and Haifa, allowing the other strugglers to take their
foot off the gas.
Sakhnin and Beitar drew 0-0, with the main talking
point of the match arriving in the 39th minute when Jerusalem’s Zaur Sadayev was
sent off for a reckless challenge on Khaled Khalaila.
“This was a strange
season and unfortunately the future doesn’t seem very bright,” said Beitar coach
Eli Cohen. “The nightmare is behind us.
You could write a book about what
we went through this season.”
Acre and Haifa drew 1-1, with Haifa’s
Maharan Lala (45) canceling out Ohad Kadusi’s opener (14).
Ashdod SC beat the already-relegated Hapoel Ramat Gan 2- 1. Stefan Scepovic
netted a brace for the winners (20, 89), with Ramat Gan scoring through a Nir
Maccabi Tel Aviv celebrated its first championship since
2003 with tens of thousands of its supporters at Rabin Square on Saturday night,
hours after beating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1-0 at Bloomfield Stadium thanks to Eran
Zahavi’s 87th-minute winner.
On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa visits Hapoel Ramat
Hasharon, while Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday.