After seeing his team dramatically come back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at home with Maccabi Netanya on Saturday night, Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman maintained that the character shown by his players in the closing stages, “actually gives me hope for the title race.”
But in truth, the Reds’ championship dream took a severe dent and it will take something truly spectacular if they are to take Maccabi Haifa’s title.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv moved just two points behind its local rival with a 3-2 win at Acre, while Betar needed a late Tomer Ben-Yosef goal to draw 1-1 at home against Hapoel Beersheba.
Bnei Sakhnin got an important 1-0 win victory, winning at Hapoel Haifa, while Hapoel Ramat Gan’s game with Ashdod, and Bnei Yehuda’s against Hapoel Petah Tikva both finished 1-1.Hapoel Tel Aviv 3, Maccabi Netanya 3
An amazing six goals in the last 24 minutes made up for a dire first half at Bloomfield, but on reflection, neither coach will be happy with the outcome.
Gutman, in his heart of hearts, will know that his team’s task of catching Haifa is became incredibly difficult after dropping two points, while Reuven Atar will be furious with his team for failing to hold on after it looked home and dry.
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Ravid Gazal was whiskers away from giving the visitors an early lead but his cheeky chip trickled agonizingly past the post and Shalev Menashe was then just as close with a similar effort.
Hapoel came more into the game in the closing stages of the first-half, with newcomer Daniel de Ridder pulling the strings in midfield.
The Dutchman was only inches over with a spectacular curling effort before feeding Gili Vermut, whose shot was clawed away by the sprawling Daniel Lifshitz.
Bibras Natcho should have put the hosts in front at the start of the second-half, but he stumbled before meeting Itai Shechter’s cross and could only stab the ball wide.
And Maharan Lala then had an even better chance, but after being put through on goal by Natcho, he failed to get hold of the ball properly and Lifshitz made an easy save.
Nineteen minutes from the end of normal time, a Menashe corner caught Hapoel napping, and Omri Ben-Harush got in front of Douglas da Silva to nod the ball in at the near post.
Five minutes later, Hapoel ‘keeper Neil Abarbanel failed to hold a low strike by Brazilian substitute Fabricio Silva Cabral and fellow replacement Ahmed Saba’a followed up to knock in the rebound.
Ten minutes from time it appeared to be game over. Gazal threaded the ball through to Saba’a, who got between Badir and Da Silva and swept the ball home.
Vermut then latched onto a quick free-kick to fire Tel Aviv a lifeline on 83 minutes, but moments later the midfield playmaker saw his penalty saved by Lifshitz after Leonard Krupnik had dragged down Victor Merey in the box.
But Hapoel didn’t give up, with Badir heading in Natcho’s hooked cross ahead of an action-packed injury-time.
Almog Cohen cleared Vermut’s shot off the line with his hip before Lifshitz capped a wonderful evening by somehow pushing Natcho’s curler onto the bar.
Cohen then received his marching orders for a second yellow card and Hapoel capitalized on the numerical advantage in the dying seconds.
Walid Badier’s overhead kick was saved off the line by Dela Yampolsky, but Vermut was there to smash in the equalizer.Hapoel Acre 2, Maccabi Tel Aviv 3
Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Ilya Yavruyan finally found some form on Saturday, bagging a brace to beat a tenacious Acre in an entertaining encounter.
After having much of the play, Tel Aviv fell behind after 31 minutes thanks to a Cameroonian combination. Adek Mba played the ball to compatriot Emmanuel Emangoa whose return pass was chested on by Oshri Gita for Mba to finish well past Liran Strauber.
Maccabi leveled three minutes after the interval. Geva Barkai’s weak defensive header only went as far Lior Jan, who crossed for Yavruyan to poke home.
The hosts regained the lead on the hour courtesy of some truly abysmal goalkeeping by Strauber. The Maccabi stopper attempted to pick up a tame Emangoa cross, but fumbled the ball to the grateful Shahar Siman-Tov who put it in from a tight angle.
Avi Nimni’s men were back on level terms nine minutes later thanks in
no small part to the introduction of Maor Buzaglo. The Maccabi
substitute showed some nifty footwork on the edge of the box before
teeing up Yossi Shivhon who smashed the ball into the bottom corner.
minutes from time, despite having just gone down to ten men due to
Andrej Komac’s second yellow card, a Buzaglo free-kick came off
Emangoa’s knee and Yavryan blasted it home to take the points back to
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