maccabi haifa 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite putting in one of its worst performances of the season, Maccabi Haifa racked up three more points on Monday night and looks well on its way to securing a second straight Premier League championship.
Haifa rarely threatened Maccabi Tel Aviv’s goal, but Shlomi Arbeitman found the back of the net for the 23rd time this season in the 83rd minute to give the Greens a 1-0 victory over Tel Aviv’s 10-men at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Although it had a player sent off in the 29th minute, Tel Aviv frustrated Haifa for much of the match, only to gift the hosts a penalty seven minutes from time and fall to a third defeat in its last four encounters.
Haifa, on the other hand, can not stop winning, opening an 11-point gap over Hapoel Tel Aviv once more with Monday’s win.
Elisha Levy’s side has won an astonishing 23 of 26 matches so far this season and, even with its gap to be halved in four weeks time, will surely not be denied another league title.
“Beating Maccabi Tel Aviv is not like any other win,” said Haifa defender Dekel Keinan, referring to the rivalry between the clubs.
“We barely created chances, but we gave our all.
“It is not easy to score against 10-men and finding the back of the net so late in the match shows our strength.”
The visitors looked up for the fight at the start of the encounter, sending players forward and keeping Haifa under pressure.
However, scoring opportunities were a rare occurrence for both teams in the first half, even after Tel Aviv lost Emmanuel Mayuka half an hour in.
The striker foolishly tripped up Keinan and was rightly sent off after the referee’s assistant, Danny Krasikov, spotted his transgression and alerted German ref, Manuel Gräfe, who officiated the match as part of a cooperation agreement reached between the Israeli and German football associations.
Haifa finally registered a decent chance two minutes from the break, with Lior Rafaelov surging into the box before sending his shot just high.
The hosts tried to up the tempo in the second half, but Tel Aviv’s defense had no trouble thwarting Haifa’s attacks.
Haifa’s clumsy play was no threat to it’s opponents’ coordinated
defense, with the Greens not testing ‘keeper Liran Strauber until the
Premier League top-scorer Arbeitman thought he had scored his 23rd
league goal of the season, but Strauber was on hand to deny his
dangerous effort and maintain the clean sheet.
However, in the 83rd minute there was nothing he could do against
Haifa’s in-form scorer. Yaniv Katan was brought down in the box by
Ronny Gafney, and despite having his first penalty disallowed,
Arbeitman converted from the spot yet again moments later, scoring an
important winner for Haifa.