Maccabi Tel Aviv winger Tal Ben-Haim (center) had to be escorted off the pitch after the brawl that followed Monday’s match at Bnei Sakhnin, a brawl during which Maccabi goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic shoved Sakhnin coach Yossi Abuksis to the ground for which he was suspended for three matches on Wedne.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic will miss next Monday’s top-ofthe- table showdown with Hapoel Beersheba after being suspended for three matches by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Wednesday for shoving Bnei Sakhnin coach Yossi Abuksis.
Following the 0-0 draw at Doha Stadium on Monday night that left Maccabi three points back of Beersheba in the Premier League title race, a mass brawl broke out on the pitch involving players, coaches and staff from both teams, as well as security personnel.
Maccabi’s Serbian goalkeeper pushed Abuksis during the fracas and will also miss his team’s games against Hapoel Ra’anana and Beitar Jerusalem. He will be available to play in the side’s final match of the season against Maccabi Haifa.
While a suspension of fewer than five matches can’t be appealed, the outraged Maccabi turned to the IFA’s high court following Wednesday’s ruling, claiming that Rajkovic was denied his legal rights as he was not permitted to be represented by a lawyer. Maccabi said that due to his inability to plead his case in Hebrew or English he should have been granted special permission to hire a lawyer. The IFA court thought otherwise and the yellow-and-blue is considering taking the case to a civil court.
Assuming the suspension is upheld as expected, Daniel Lifshitz is likely to start in goal for Maccabi in the next three matches.
The 27-year-old, who joined Maccabi on a season-long loan deal from Hapoel Ra’anana, has played just one league match to date, being sent off in a 2-1 win over Maccabi Petah Tikva last October.
Tensions between Maccabi and Sakhnin were already running high prior to Monday’s match, with the teams meeting again just four days after their volatile showdown in the State Cup semifinals. A Tal Ben-Haim winner with five minutes to play gave Maccabi a dramatic 3-2 win in an enthralling cup affair at Haifa Stadium last Thursday, booking the yellow-and-blue a meeting with Maccabi Haifa in the final next month.
Sakhnin coach, Yossi Abuksis, and his players were furious at the end of the match, blaming Maccabi for acting in an unsporting manner in the lead-up to its first goal. Abuksis was sent off for his protests to the referee after Tel Aviv continued play even though Ali Osman allowed the ball to roll out in order to receive treatment for an injury.
Following the final whistle on Monday, Abuksis approached the Maccabi bench and initially exchanged words with fitness coach Juan Torrijo.
Both benches quickly cleared and in the ensuing melee, Rajkovic pushed Abuksis after which an unidentified man in a Sakhnin shirt attempted to kick the Serbian stopper.
Matters truly got out of hand when the stewards attempted to separate the sides but instead ended up fanning the flames.
Maccabi and Sakhnin will both face charges for the unsporting conduct of their supporters, players and staff members, with Sakhnin facing an additional charge for its responsibility for the brawl as the host team.
Abuksis was fined NIS 5,500 for his part in the fray on Wednesday, while Torrijo was acquitted.
Meanwhile, the battle against relegation will resume on Saturday, with four teams separated by a single point with three matches to play.
Hapoel Acre (32 points, -19 goal difference), which occupies 13th place that will lead to demotion at the end of the season, hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday, while Hapoel Haifa (32, -9) visits Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Kfar Saba (33, -15) welcomes Ironi Kiryat Shmona (32, -7).