(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Two more sensational goals by Eran Zahavi were not enough for Maccabi Tel Aviv to pick up all three points on Monday night, with a yellow-and-blue defensive blunder gifting Ironi Kiryat Shmona an 84th-minute equalizer and a 2-2 draw.
After a quiet first half, the match burst into life following Zahavi’s unstoppable free-kick from the edge of the box in the 61st minute.
Kiryat Shmona leveled the score just four minutes later after Adrian Rochet finished off a swift team move.
However, the yellow-and-blue still seemed to be heading to its 17th victory from the past 20 matches and a 10-point gap at the top of the standings when Zahavi smashed the visitors back into the lead from just inside the box in the 80th minute.
But a poor back-pass by Eitan Tibi four minutes later allowed Weeam Amasha to steal the ball off the feet of ‘keeper Juan Pablo and fire into the back of the net from a tight angle, extending Kiryat Shmona’s unbeaten streak to 10 matches.
Despite the disappointment of conceding such an unnecessary goal, Maccabi can console itself in the knowledge that it remains well on track to defend its Premier League title, owning an eightpoint margin over second-place Hapoel Beersheba with seven matches to play.
“I’m very disappointed with the result,” said Zahavi, who took his tally for the season to 20 goals. “We played really well in the second half and led twice. It isn’t like us to concede such goals.”
Zahavi insisted that the title race is still not over.
“There are still plenty more points to play for,” he said. “We could lose more points just like we did tonight. We lost two points by mistake tonight but we will bounce back and make sure we officially clinch the title.”
Kiryat Shmona moved seven points clear in third place and looks set to secure Europa League qualification via the league even if it doesn’t lift the State Cup. Kiryat Shmona faces Beersheba in the cup semis next Wednesday.
“I can’t be disappointed with a 2-2 draw against Maccabi,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar. “They dominated the second half. You only appreciate how good Maccabi is when you play against them, but we did our best and recorded a great result.”