Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson (right) scored his team’s opener in last night’s 2-0 win over Ben Turgeman (left) and Bnei Yehuda in Premier League action.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways in Premier League action to remain within striking distance of the summit on Sunday night, battling to a 2-0 victory over Bnei Yehuda in Netanya.
After squandering a two-goal lead against Hapoel Ashkelon to draw 2-2 in its final match before the international break following two successive goalless deadlocks against Villarreal in the Europa League and Maccabi Haifa, the yellow-and-blue was desperate to kickstart its campaign on Sunday.
Maccabi struggled to create chances for much of the match, but Icelandic striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson only required a small opening to head in the opener in the 51st minute. With Bnei Yehuda sending everyone forward in search of an equalizer, Maccabi clinched the win deep into stoppage time courtesy of Nick Blackman’s goal.
“We didn’t play our best game,” said Maccabi coach Jordi Cruyff. “But after the last two games in which we played better but didn’t get the points the most important thing was to take the three points.”
Maccabi visits Hapoel Beersheba in a showdown between the two title favorites next Monday, but Cruyff wouldn’t comment on that match, insisting he is completely focused on Thursday’s Europa game at Astana in Kazakhstan.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya will try and climb up to second place when they meet at Teddy Stadium. A win for either side will move it within three points of the summit, with Netanya entering the encounter brimming with confidence while Beitar wants to bounce back from its first defeat of the campaign.
Despite making few changes to the squad that won promotion from the National League last season, Netanya has been one of the league’s pleasant surprises this season. Slobodan Drapic’s team has lost just one of its seven matches, to Maccabi Tel Aviv, but has since won two games in a row by a combined goal difference of 7-0.
“We want to build on this form and hopefully it can lead us to achievements we never dreamed possible,” said Drapic.
Beitar’s unbeaten start to the campaign came to an end with a 3-2 defeat at Bnei Sakhnin before the international break, but veteran Yossi Benayoun is optimistic the team can get back on track on Monday.
“We respect Netanya, but we are playing at home and we always want to win at Teddy,” said Benayoun. “It is only natural that they will come with confidence because they are doing better than expected.
But we want to focus on our own play and what we need to improve on.”
Earlier Sunday, Hapoel Ra’anana sacked coach Guy Levy after just three matches at the helm. Ra’anana lost all three of its league games under Levy, who had replaced Dudu Avraham. Avraham was fired by owner Asher Alon after the team had picked up a single point from its first four games.
Ra’anana played arguably its best game of the season on Saturday, leading Hapoel Beersheba 1-0 until the 77th minute before the reigning champion scored three times in 10 minutes to take the three points.
“I’m not angry and I have no complaints towards anyone,” Levy wrote on Facebook.
“No one forced me to take this job and I did it knowing its limitations and the team’s situation. This is the first time in my career that I was fired for being a professional, methodical and organized coach.”