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Maccabi Tel Aviv overcame Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-1 in a passionate and dramatic derby at Bloomfield Stadium Sunday night.
The match was more about pride than points and Maccabi proved that although it may have lacked ability at times this season, it can still come up with the goods when it comes up against its most bitter rival.
"The fans have always been with us, even in our bad moments and we paid back some of that debt tonight," said Maccabi captain Avi Nimni. "I'm happy for the young players in the team. They showed they are real men today. We have to get our feet back on the ground because it is a new game next Saturday and we have to continue this good run."
"We didn't play smart and the whole team played a poor match," said Hapoel captain Yossi Abuksis. "This is a derby and it hurts a lot because of the fans and not because of the lost points."
Hapoel took the lead out of the blue in the 29th minute of the match thanks to Javier Paez's header, but two goals in the next 11 minutes by Nimni and Moshe Biton gave Maccabi - the "visitors" - a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Immediately after Biton's goal, a player from each club was shown a red card and both squads continued with 10 men.
Ivan Razic capped Maccabi's sensational evening with a 90th-minute goal and secured his team's second win of the Premier League season.
Maccabi climbs to sixth place in the standings after two consecutive victories and is tied with Hapoel on points. Hapoel remains in fifth after its second defeat of the season.
After a dreary first 20 minutes in which Maccabi controlled most of the possession but couldn't create scoring opportunities, the game burst into life thanks to Hapoel's goal that came against the run of play.
In the 29th minute, an Elyaniv Barda corner was met by Baruch Dego, who back-headed the ball and Paez scored from three meters out.
Five minutes later, Maccabi got a well-deserved equalizer. Nimni headed the ball in directly from a corner kick and gave Maccabi fans something to shout about.
In the 40th minute, the visitors completed their comeback. Omer Peretz sprinted down the right sideline all the way into the Hapoel box and squared the ball for Biton, who easily slotted the ball in to give his team the lead.
Following the goal, Maccabi and Hapoel players clashed and Maccabi defender Milan Martinovic and Hapoel full back Tal Hen exchanged shoves and were both shown the red card by the referee.
Maccabi continued to push forward in search of what it hoped would be a deciding third goal and in the first minute of the half's stoppage time almost got it. Peretz found space in the Hapoel box and hit a powerful shot that was well saved by 'keeper Shavit Elimelech.
Moments before the halftime whistle, Maccabi was close to increasing its lead once again. However, a Nimni header was wide and Maccabi had to settle for the one-goal lead at the interval.
Ten minutes into the second half, Hapoel was only denied an equalizer by the goal frame. Luciano De Bruno hit a curled shot straight at the post and Maccabi was spared.
Hapoel continued to press forward and in the 71st minute Maccabi was once again in debt to the goalpost for maintaining its lead. Substitute Gili Vermot crossed the ball from the right and his pass turned into a shot and was kept out only by fortune.
Four minutes later, Barda found Salim Toema in the corner of the box, but his shot was easily picked up by the 'keeper.
Seconds before the 90th minute, Maccabi got a third and decisive goal after substitute Yossi Shivhon broke down the left and passed the ball to Razic, who smashed it into goal and gave his team the sweetest of wins.
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