DESPITE A 2-1 home victory last night over Sarpsborg 08, a late penalty goal saw Maccabi Tel Aviv eliminated from the Europa League with a 4-3 aggregate loss to the Norwegian side..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The Israel Football Premier League Ligat Japanika 2018-19 season has hit the quarter mark and it’s time to take a look at some of the most interesting and intriguing stories so far this campaign.
Maccabi Tel Aviv has been the leader of the pack so far, posting a remarkable record of seven wins and two draws in nine matches, for 23 points out of a possible 27. That’s their best start since the Double 1995-96 season, when they won eight games and lost one of their first nine. The yellow-and-blue have scored 21 goals and have conceded only four as keeper Predrag Rajkovic has recorded five clean sheets. Scoring has been distributed extremely well for Vladimir Ivic’s squad with 11 different players finding the back of the goal, while Dor Micha leads the league with five assists.
Hapoel Hadera is the surprise package of the season to date. No one expected the newly promoted side to be in contention: after nine matches they sit in second place with six victories, two defeats and a draw good for 19 points. Coach Niso Avitan has done a remarkable job in keeping Hadera not only competitive but in the title race by keeping his players conditioning at its peak as they have been able to outlast their opponents scoring four match winning goals in the 87th minute or later. Lucio has been the team’s leading goal scorer with five markers while Ange-Freddy Plumain has handed out four assists.
Bnei Yehuda is another squad that has been a revelation so far with budding youngster Yarden Shua and Mavis Tchibota. Shua has five goals and three assists while Tchibota leads the league in goals with six as Head Coach Yossi Abuksis has his team playing solid football. In fact, Bnei Yehuda has won and drawn four matches while losing only once this season, a defeat that came in the first Matchday while scoring 16 goals and giving up only six. The club’s signature win came at Beitar Jerusalem when they took down the capital city side 5-1.
Kiryat Shemona is currently in fourth place sporting a record of four wins, three draws and a pair of defeats as Haim Silvas’s team has given up only five goals as they feature one of the strongest defenses in the league. A back line anchored by Iyad Abu Abaid, Marcus Diniz, Idan Nachmias and Yuval Shpungin, along with midfielder Valon Ahmedi, they have proved to be the stars of the show for Silvas as the northern-most team looks to continue their fine season.
Hapoel Beer Sheva suffered a rough start to the season only winning their first game on Matchday 6, and leaving them 10 points off the table leaders at the quarter mark. Barak Bachar’s attack has been stagnant as Ben Sahar leads the team in scoring with three goals, two of which came just last contest. However, there’s plenty of football left to play and you can never underestimate the heart of a champion.
Maccabi Haifa has also had a topsy-turvy season as Technical Director Mo Allach and Head Coach Fred Rutten resigned after the team’s second win of the season on Matchday 8 as veteran Israeli boss Eli Gutman now takes over the squad. The one bright spot for the Carmel Greens has been the play of Muhamad Awad who has scored three goals so far this season. However, with no full time coach slated to be appointed until after Matchday 10, Haifa will need to get its house in order quickly over the upcoming three week break.
Beitar Jerusalem replaced Guy Luzon with Nir Klinger just in time for Matchday 9 but the results were immediate as the yellow-and-black moved out of the league basement. This was only the capital city side’s second win of the campaign as new owner Moshe Hogeg hopes his luck will change with a new boss in charge.
If you like goals then Maccabi Netanya is your team as they’ve scored 12 while giving up 14 so far this season. But it also took them until Matchday 5 to notch their first victory but have now won four of their last five games. Guy Melamed leads the team with four goals as Dudi Tiram has three.
While Netanya has played well of late, the exact opposite can be said of 7th place club Maccabi Petah Tikva who have not won since Matchday 4. Veteran Yossi Benayoun has three goals as Gidi Kanuk has four to lead Elisha Levy’s team who look to the back onto the winning track.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel Sports Adventures for tourists and residents: sportsrabbi.com/ - Twitter @thesportsrabbi; firstname.lastname@example.org
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