Mac TA soccer victory win 248.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
While expressing his delight after his team beat Betar Jerusalem 4-3 in an exhilarating encounter at Bloomfield Stadium, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Avi Nimni said that first and foremost, he hoped the game provided a fitting response to those speaking "negatively" about Israeli soccer.
And while at times both defenses were all at sea in Saturday night's match between two bitter rivals, few could argue with Nimni's assessment that the game indeed was a great advert for the domestic league.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Tel Aviv closed the gap on table-topping Maccabi Haifa to six points with a convincing 3-0 win away at Hapoel Ramat Gan, while Ashdod was held 1-1 by bottom side Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Beersheba ended Acre's nine-game undefeated streak with a 3-1 away win, while Maccabi's Petah Tikva's woes continued with a 3-1 defeat at Hapoel Ra'anana.
Meanwhile, the battle of northerners Sakhnin and Nazareth ended one apiece.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 4, Betar Jerusalem 3
For the second week in a row, Maccabi Tel Aviv conceded three, but this time Nimni's men managed to come out on top in what will certainly go down as one of the greatest Israeli top-flight games this season.
The match began at a frenzied pace, with tackles flying and the ball fizzing about.
It wasn't long before the visitors were gifted an early goal.
A long ball over the top in te eighth minute was half headed clear by Igor Tomasic, but Ronald Raldes, in his attempt to complete the clearance, miss-hit the ball into the path of Toto Tamuz and the on-fire Betar striker latched onto it like lightening before poking in into the corner.
However, Tel Aviv soon got the equalizer its pressing deserved. Ivica Iliev crossed the ball in from the left, Raldes's header was clawed out by Ariel Harush, but Shiran Yeini absolutely walloped a first-time volley into the back of the net.
Maccabi grabbed the lead six minutes before the break. Roni Gafney chipped in a cross and Tamir Kahlon met the ball just as sweetly as Yeini had done, drilling it into the corner with the outside of his foot.
The goals simply kept getting better and better, as Aviram Bruchian's deflected cross found Barak Itzhaki at the far post on the stroke of half-time, and the Betar striker gave Liran Strauber absolutely no chance with a breathtaking scissor-kick.
The game's frantic pace showed no signs of slowing in the second half, with Raldes coming within inches of regaining the lead for the home side not long after the restart, but the Bolivian's header was pushed onto the bar by Harush.
Maccabi didn't have to wait long before going in front again though, with Kahlon curling a pinpoint cross to the unmarked Yossi Shivhon, who directed his header low into the corner.
Tamuz almost equalized immediately for Betar, but after running onto Harush's long punt downfield, his attempted lob was palmed to safety by Strauber.
And with Tamuz still holding his head in disbelief, the away side conceded again. Emmanuel Mayuka sped down the right, nut-megging substitute Arik Benado in the process. While his first attempt at goal was cleared by Eitan Tibi, the Zambian scored the rebound with a diving header.
Betar's backline was at a loss, and Mayuka nearly got a fifth from Gafney's low center, but Harush made a smart save down to his right.
The excitement just wouldn't die down, with the visitors hauling their way back into the game, thanks to Itzhaki's inspiration. The former Genk man neatly controlled Tamuz's long ball, and showed fabulously quick feet to beat Nisso Kapiloto, Gafney and the diving Strauber before rolling the ball in with aplomb.
Again, Tamuz had a glorious chance to equalize, but after collecting Bruchian's square pass and turning Yuval Spungin, he blazed over with only Strauber to beat, and Maccabi managed to hold on for a famous victory.
Nimni hailed both sets of players for an "extraordinary display of skill and aggression," while his opposite number Itzhak Schum said he hoped all the spectators enjoyed the pulsating game.
Hinting at Betar's defensive frailties, Schum said, "We scored three at Bloomfield, but still lost. I'm aware of our problems and I hope we solve them soon."