Maccabi Tel Aviv survived a stern examination from Beitar Jerusalem in Netanya on Monday night to claim a nervy 1-0 victory and reestablish a four-point gap at the top of the Premier League standings.
Rade Prica’s goal in the 74th minute was all that separated the sides, giving the yellow-and-blue its 14th win from the past 16 matches and opening some breathing space from the surging Hapoel Beersheba.
Maccabi was playing without three of its four regular starters in defense, with Eitan Tibi, Carlos Garcia and Shiran Yeini all missing out through injury.
Jonathan Vila should have given Beitar the lead in the 67th minute, failing to place his shot on target despite finding himself with time and space five meters from Tel Aviv’s goal.
Prica then struck at the other end and nothing was going to deny Maccabi the points after Beitar’s Shlomi Azulai only hit the crossbar with his shot 10 minutes from time.
“We had a lot of difficulties with injuries, but the players showed their character and personality and we got the result we were looking for,” said Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa.
Meanwhile, Bnei Yehuda midfielder Rafi Dahan is set to miss between six and nine months after an MRI test on Monday revealed that he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Dahan suffered the horrific injury from a vicious two-legged lunge by Ruben Rayos during Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Maccabi Haifa.
Dahan, who moved to Bnei Yehuda on a loan deal from Maccabi Tel Aviv in January, will miss the rest of this season, as well as the start of next season.
“I couldn’t sleep all night. I was given Morphine and spent all night thinking of what happened,” said an emotional Dahan after exiting the MRI. “Only God will punish Rayos for what he did.
He meant to do it. I don’t know if he will be suspended for eight matches or 20 or 30. I don’t care and it doesn’t help me.
“This won’t break me and I’m sure that I will come back stronger,” added Dahan, who is due to get married in two weeks.
Rayos flew to Spain on Monday for a prearranged holiday as he was already suspended for this coming weekend’s match against Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
The Spaniard will face an Israel Football Association disciplinary committee on Wednesday, with the IFA prosecutor to seek an additional eightmatch ban to the automatic one-game suspension he will receive for the red card he was shown.
Should Rayos receive a nine-match suspension he will only be available for Haifa’s final game of the campaign.
The Spaniard apologized after the match on Sunday and also posted a message on his Facebook page on Monday.
“I want to publicly apologize to Rafi Dahan. A move during the match has ended in the worst possible way,” the message read. “In my career I have never been in a similar situation, I didn’t mean to hurt him. I will contact Rafi to apologize, I am very upset.”
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