Maccabi Netanya defender Andriy Mischenko (right) tackles Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Ofer Verta during last night’s 1-1 draw in Premier League action.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
With his future still unresolved, Slavisa Jokanovic is set to lead out Maccabi Tel Aviv perhaps for the last time when the three-time reigning Premier League champion hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night.
Maccabi can move back to the summit of the standings for at least 24 hours with a win. Hapoel Beersheba, which has a three-point gap at the top after beating the yellow-and-blue 2-1 last week, hosts Hapoel Ra’anana at Turner Stadium on Monday.
Despite the ongoing negotiations between Maccabi and English Championship club Fulham regarding the services of Jokanovic, the Serbian guided his team in its pre-match training session on Saturday and is expected to be on the sidelines on Sunday.
Jokanovic couldn’t even confirm in Thursday’s pre-match press conference that he would still be at the helm for Sunday’s match. Tel Aviv is believed to be demanding £250,000 for his services, with Maccabi sports director Jordi Cruyff determined on having a replacement signed before allowing the Serbian to leave.
“I prefer not to talk about the speculation. I prefer not to make any comment about this,” said Jokanovic. “I can’t comment more about this because this would be disrespectful to my team and can cause damage.”
Jokanovic insisted he is happy with life in Israel.
“This is a nice place and I’m very happy with my players and life in Tel Aviv,” he claimed. “I’m not unhappy. I’m enjoying my life. I understand your interest but this is a press conference about the match ahead of us.”
Beitar Jerusalem missed an opportunity to close within a single point of Maccabi on Saturday, drawing 1-1 at Hapoel Haifa.
Haifa took the lead through Maharan Lala in the 40th minute, with Nikita Rukavytsya (76) equalizing for the visitors.
Maccabi Haifa extended its unbeaten streak to six matches on Saturday, beating Bnei Sakhnin 2-1 on the road. Yossi Benayoun (5) and Eliran Atar (32) scored for Haifa, with Shlomi Azulay’s goal in the 68th minute not proving enough for coach Yossi Abuksis to avoid a defeat in his first match at the helm.
Sakhnin (15 points) dropped into the relegation zone after Hapoel Acre (17) beat Hapoel Kfar Saba (16) 1-0. Ahmed Kasoum scored the only goal of the match in the 57th minute, with Kfar Saba playing with 10 men in the second half following Tal Benesh’s sending off due to a scuffle at the interval.
Five teams are separated by just two points in the bottom half of the standings.
Rock-bottom Maccabi Netanya (10 points) and Hapoel Tel Aviv (17) drew 1-1 in an eventful match on Saturday. Despite having Omer Vered sent off with a contentious refereeing decision in the sixth minute, Netanya took the lead in the 45th minute thanks to Romario Pires’s penalty. Hapoel would level the score through Siraj Nassar’s free kick in the 70th minute before losing Eyad Abu Abied to a red card seven minutes later.
Also Saturday, Pedro Galvan’s 82nd-minute goal gave Bnei Yehuda a 1-1 draw against Maccabi Petah Tikva, which took the lead through Guy Melamed six minutes from the interval.