Lior Rafaelov 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa will take just a two-point margin into the Premier League
championship playoffs after drawing 1-1 at Maccabi Netanya on
Haifa held a seven-point gap over Hapoel Tel Aviv entering this
weekend’s matches, but the reigning-champion’s 2-1 win over Hapoel Ramat Gan
coupled with Maccabi’s draw saw the lead cut to five points, with the halving of
point totals reducing the margin to just two points after the Reds benefited
from having their tally rounded up.
“It was cruel and painful to lose the
championship last season, but we are not thinking of that at all,” Haifa coach
Elisha Levy said. “We need to make sure we are ready for our next match which
will also be against Netanya and continue from there. I think the playoffs this
season will be very difficult.”
Tomer Hemed gave Haifa the lead in the
56th minute on Sunday, but Netanya was the better team for much of the match and
deserved no less than the point it got thanks to Ahmed Saba’s 67th minute
The precious point took Netanya into sixth place in the
standings and secured a championship playoff berth for Reuven Atar’s team, which
was regarded as one of the weakest sides in the league entering the
Haifa and Netanya will not need to wait long before they meet
again, with the Greens hosting Atar’s team at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium next week
in their first match of the final five-game stretch to end the
“We began the season well, but then suffered a bit of a lull,”
said Atar, whose team is unbeaten in its last 10 matches.
have grown in confidence and experience as the season has progressed and it is
Also Sunday, Bnei Yehuda defeated Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-0 at
Bloomfield Stadium, recording its seventh victory in its past nine matches and
ending its opponent’s hopes of reaching the championship playoffs.
Zhairi netted the opener in the sixth minute and the hosts all but clinched the
win seven minutes into the second half thanks to Pedro Galvan’s 15th league goal
of the season and eighth in as many matches.
In Netanya, the hosts got
off to a bright start, looking to dominate the league-leader.
budget may dwarf Netanya’s, but the hosts were the better team throughout the
first half and should have taken the lead before the break.
squandered a good chance in the 12th minute when he could only register a weak
shot from the center of the box and seven minutes later Firas Mugrabi only had
goalkeeper Nir Davidovich to beat, but his cheeky chip was saved.
Levy’s halftime talk seemed to inspire his players at the start of the second
half as Haifa began to find its rhythm and dictate the pace.
’keeper Carlos Arias to thank for remaining deadlocked with Haifa five minutes
into the second half after the Bolivian’s double save, first parrying Shlomi
Azulai’s dangerous shot before keeping out Idan Vered’s close range
However, in the 56th minute there was nothing Arias could do to
deny the visitors the opener.
Azulai crossed the ball from the right and
Hemed once more came to Haifa’s rescue, heading in his 11th league goal of the
season and his ninth in the past 10 matches. Haifa’s lead, however, would last
for just 11 minutes.
The Greens defense was caught napping by Dela
Yampolsky’s long ball and Saba coolly slotted the ball beyond Davidovich to give
the hosts a deserved equalizer and a well-earned point.