311_hap TA soccer.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hapoel Tel Aviv handed Maccabi Haifa its first defeat of the Premier League season on Monday night, winning 2-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium despite going down to 10 men in the 26th minute.
After an erratic start to its titledefense, Hapoel claimed its fifth straight victory on Monday and moved tied on 19 points with Maccabi Tel Aviv, which continues to lead the standings thanks to a superior goal difference.
Haifa controlled the possession throughout Monday’s encounter, even before Danny Bondarv was shown a red card.
However, it could not get the better of Hapoel goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama in inspired form and Shay Abutbul gave the Reds the lead in the 59th minute before Gili Vermut wrapped up the win in injury time.
“I believed we could win even with 10 men,” Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said. “I told the players they must maintain their composure and break forward when they had the chance.”
Haifa captain Yaniv Katan was bitterly disappointed.
“We created chances, but didn’t convert them,” he said. “We had a good match, but that’s worthless.”
Nir Davidovich started in Haifa’s goal for the first time this season and he was tested after just 27 seconds, with Salim Toama shooting from the edge of the area.
However, the hosts quickly seized control of the possession and it didn’t take them longer to threaten Enyeama’s goal.
After less than three minutes, Vladimir Dvalishvili should have done better with John Culma’s ball, and a minute later Lior Rafaelov found the back of the net, only to have his goal disallowed by a contentious decision from the referee’s assistant.
A referring decision was at the center of attention once more in the 26th minute.
Rafaelov was surging towards Enyeama’s goal when Bondarv tripped him up and was subsequently sent off for being the last man on defense.
Hapoel entered the match without the injured Douglas da Silva, Avihai Yadin and Itai Shechter, and after falling to 10 men it immediately pulled back to a more defensive formation, inviting Haifa pressure.
However, the hosts had little to show for their efforts, with Katan recording their best chance with a shot from 20 meters out in the 38th minute.
Tel Aviv would actually come closest to scoring before the interval, with Ben Sahar squaring the ball after some great build up play, only for Toto Tamuz to fire woefully wide.
Haifa remained in control at the beginning of the second half, but it created little to nothing.
Tel Aviv was more than content to sit back and wait for its chance on the break, and when it finally arrived, Abutbul certainly made it count.
After a super team move, Tamuz had the vision to pick out Abutbul on the edge of the area, and the midfielder, who was supposed to leave Hapoel in the summer, placed his shot to perfection in the top right corner of Davidovich’s goal.
After conceding the all-important opener, Haifa sent everyone forward in search of the equalizer and would have surely got one had Enyeama not stood in Hapoel’s goal.
In the 73rd minute, the Nigerian somehow got a foot to Dvalishvili’s
shot despite being off balance and nine minutes later Enyeama had to be
at his best once more to clear Rafaelov’s effort.
Six minutes from time, Enyeama kept out Sinyiyahu Salalik’s deflected
shot with an acrobatic effort and when the Tel Aviv stopper denied Peter
Masilela’s bullet four minutes later the hosts understood it would not
be their day.
Even ’keeper Davidovich came forward in stoppage time, and Hapoel took
advantage, with Vermut passing the Haifa keeper on the halfway line and
slotting in the ball into an empty net to complete a memorable victory.