Hapoel Haifa returned to first place in the Premier League standings with the sweetest possible victory on Monday, defeating Maccabi Haifa 1-0 in the derby..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Haifa returned to first place in the Premier League standings with the sweetest possible victory on Monday, defeating Maccabi Haifa 1-0 in the derby.
Maccabi enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but it was Hapoel striker Radu Ginsari who scored the only goal of the match in the 12th minute to give his team its first win in a home derby in nearly 22 years.
The last time Hapoel defeated Maccabi in a league derby it hosted was in December 16, 1995, when Reuven Atar and Amir Turgeman found the back of the net for the winners.
The last time Hapoel Haifa finished ahead of Maccabi in the standings was back in the 1998/99 season when it won its one and only championship.
The team ended every campaign since behind Maccabi, not to mention several seasons over the past two decades in which it didn’t even play in the same league as the Greens after being relegated to the National League.
However, Hapoel not only leapfrogged Hapoel Beersheba back into first place on goal difference with Monday’s win, but opened a 12-point gap over Maccabi which seems unlikely to be bridged.
It isn’t just that Hapoel has gotten off to a sensational start, but Maccabi is faltering yet again this season.
The Greens have won just four of 12 matches so far this season and are still searching for their first road victory of 2017/18. Haifa has only picked up three of a possible 21 points away from home, scoring three goals in total over seven games.
Hapoel Haifa striker Radu Ginsari scored the winner with an accurate header in the 12th minute.
Maccabi would control the remainder of the encounter, but couldn’t break down its rival’s defense. Goalkeeper Ran Kadosh made several key saves and Maccabi also had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside.
“This was exhausting,” said Hapoel coach Nir Klinger. “We didn’t play at our best but we showed so much heart.
I can’t say enough about the effort the players put in tonight. I think we deserve to be in first place. We are committed and we battle in every match.”
Klinger couldn’t hide his excitement at the final whistle.
“You can’t stay calm after a win like this,” said the coach. “I think that if we bolster the squad by 2-3 players in January we can continue like this until the end of the season. This isn’t the time to set any bigger goals, but if we continue like this anything is possible.”
In other news, the Toto Cup final will be held in Netanya next Thursday, with Hapoel Beersheba refusing to accept Maccabi Tel Aviv’s request to postpone the match to late December.
Both teams will complete their Europa League group campaigns on Thursday, with neither having any chance of progressing. Maccabi faces Villarreal in Spain before visiting Maccabi Petah Tikva in Premier League play on Monday.
Beersheba, on the other hand, hosts Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic before going to Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday. That will afford Beersheba an additional day of rest and preparation ahead of the final.
Beersheba is aiming to win the Toto Cup for a second straight season, while Maccabi last won the title in 2014/15.
The winner of the final will claim NIS 1.3 in prize money.