Mac TA soccer Mayuka 248.88 .
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa's perfect start to the season came to an abrupt end on Monday night with a 1-0 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
The defending champion entered Monday's match looking to equal the all-time record for the most consecutive wins to begin a season. Haifa had won its first 10 encounters of the season, just one short of the record co-held by the 2005/06 Haifa team and Avraham Grant's 1993/94 Maccabi Tel Aviv side.
However, Haifa had a mountain to climb after Emmanuel Mayuka gave Tel Aviv the lead in the fifth minute, and despite dominating the second half, created very few scoring chances.
"We are not used to losing, but we never thought we would win forever," said Haifa coach Elisha Levy, whose team is now just six points clear of second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv.
"We improved in the second half, but failed to create chances and deserved to lose."
Tel Aviv coach Avi Nimni was delighted with his players' performance.
"My players gave an amazing effort against the best team in the country," he said after his team climbed to third place in the standings.
It took Haifa just three minutes to register the first chance of the match, with defender Jorge Teixeira testing Liran Strauber.
Two minutes later, however, it was Tel Aviv which took the lead.
Ivica Iliev found Mayuka in space and the Zambian striker superbly curled his shot into the back of the net.
In the 26th minute, the hosts were centimeters away from doubling their lead. Iliev beat 'keeper Nir Davidovitch with his shot, but the post came to the Greens' rescue and the yellow-and-blue remained just one goal in front.
With his side clearly struggling, Levy made an early substitution in the 28th minute, replacing poor Ali Ottman with Mohammad Ghadir. Just three minutes later, captain Yaniv Katan had a golden opportunity to equalize. An excellent team move ended with Shlomi Arbeitman heading the ball down for Katan, but the forward sent his shot to the center of the goal and Strauber denied him with an instinctive save.
Haifa seized control of the encounter at the start of the second half, but for all its possession failed to create any significant scoring opportunities.
Tel Aviv was content on soaking up the pressure and in the 69th minute it almost scored again with its first chance of the second half. Mayuka received the ball at the center of the box, but his shot was deflected wide by some desperate Haifa defending.
The visitors continued to dominate in subsequent minutes, but were not sharp enough in the final third and failed to threaten Strauber's goal. Haifa sent everyone forward in search of the equalizer, but it just wasn't to be and the Tel Aviv fans erupted in joy after the final whistle was sounded and the famous victory was secured.