A week after suffering a heart-wrenching defeat in the derby, Hapoel Tel Aviv looks to somehow collect itself and bounce back when it faces Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium once more on Monday night.
Hapoel looked to be heading to its first win in the derby since the start of last season when it took a 2-1 lead last week through Omer Damari’s penalty three minutes from time. However, 10-man Maccabi immediately drew level through an Eran Zahavi penalty and the midfielder gave the defending champion all three points against all odds with an accurate shot from the edge of the box with the last kick of the match, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in the derby since Eli Driks in the 1992/93 campaign.
“This is the most painful defeat of my career,” said Hapoel midfielder Gili Vermut.
“We are such losers. Some of the players cried, some screamed and some locked themselves in the bathroom. This match epitomizes our season.”
Hapoel has now lost five consecutive derbies and Maccabi could close to within a single victory of the longest winning streak in the history of the showdown between Tel Aviv’s two top clubs should it triumph yet again on Monday.
Maccabi is targeting its 16th victory from the past 18 league matches, aiming to open a seven-point margin over second- place Hapoel Beersheba ahead of their meeting at Bloomfield next week.
Hapoel’s only remaining goal of the season is to finish in third place and qualify for the Europa League. The Reds enter Monday’s encounter eight points behind third-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona, which beat Maccabi Haifa 1-0 on Saturday.
Hapoel will be hoping either Beersheba or Kiryat Shmona go on to win the State Cup, assuming they finish in the top three, as that would mean fourth place will also lead to qualification for continental competition next season.
Regardless, Ran Ben-Shimon’s men will need to begin to pick up points against the five teams currently ranked above them, with Hapoel collecting just three combined points in its 10 matches so far this season against Maccabi Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Kiryat Shmona, Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Sakhnin.
“We have 10 more matches to play this season and we still have goals to achieve,” said Ben-Shimon. “We have to forget about the last defeat, as painful as it may be.”
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