HAPOEL TEL AVIV and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona can clinch an historic Premier League championship on Monday
night after Hapoel Tel Aviv could only manage a 0-0 draw with Maccabi Tel Aviv
in a fan-less derby on Saturday night.
The most heated encounter in
Israeli soccer lacked its usual fire on Saturday, with Hapoel hosting Maccabi in
front of an empty Bloomfield Stadium due to a punishment handed down to the club
by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court following the violent
behavior of its fans in the last derby three weeks ago.
supporters in the stands and no atmosphere in the stadium, it is of little
surprise that the match rarely sparked into life.
“To play a derby
without fans is like having a Purim feast on Tisha B’av,” Hapoel coach Nitzan
“It was a strange and anemic affair. A 0-0 deadlock is a
fitting result for this ridiculous punishment. You can’t play in this kind of
Hapoel’s failure to win means Kiryat Shmona now holds a
16-point gap at the top of the standings and a home victory over Bnei Yehuda on
Monday will see the northerners secure a first league title in their history,
with still six matches to play in the season.
The draw in the Tel Aviv
derby also means only three points separate Hapoel in second place and Ashdod SC
in sixth in the battle for a Europa League berth next season awarded to the
teams which will finish in second and third, and possibly also fourth, should
one of the top three sides win the cup.
Maccabi Netanya climbed to third
on Saturday with its fourth straight league win, defeating Ashdod 2-0 on the
road to move tied on points with Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Netanya, which advanced
to the quarterfinals of the State Cup by knocking out Kiryat Shmona last
Wednesday, continued its sizzling form in Ashdod, with Ahmed Saba (56) improving
his league-leading total to 19 goals and Hen Ezra (72) clinching the three
Maccabi Haifa closed to within just two points of second and
third with a 2-0 win at Bnei Sakhnin courtesy of goals from Dele Yampolsky (24)
and Yaniv Katan (73).
While the competition for European qualification
remains wide open, the fight for survival could become much clearer on Sunday
night should Betar Jerusalem beat Maccabi Petah Tikva following Hapoel Haifa’s
crucial 2-1 victory over Hapoel Beersheba on Saturday.
Two goals in five
first half minutes by Yuval Avidor (30) and Hanan Maman (34) were enough to give
Haifa all three points at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, with Ofir Davidzada’s goal
(43) of little consolation for the visitors.
The victory took Haifa five
points clear of Maccabi Petah Tikva and the relegation zone and Tal Banin’s men
will be able to breath a lot easier should Jerusalem beat Moshe Sinai’s team at
National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Sunday to keep Petah Tikva in the bottom three
and move the yellow-andblack seven points away from danger.
will be just as desperate for a Beter win, with the southerners currently only
two points clear of the relegation zone.
Hapoel Rishon Lezion’s hopes of
survival took another hefty blow on Saturday with a 5-2 thrashing at the hands
of Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Ramat Hasharon was 2-0 ahead after just four
minutes thanks to goals from Tomer Swisa (3) and Ognjen Damjanovic (4), and any
hope Rishon was given by David Gomez’s goal in the 17th minute, was quickly
extinguished by another Damjanovic strike (29).
Gal Barel (65) and Baruch
Dego (70) piled the misery on Rishon in the second half, with Moshe Ben-Lulu’s
90thminute goal bringing little cheer to the despondent
Rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva may no longer have any realistic
hope of surviving, but it continued to play with pride on Saturday, coming back
from two goals down to beat Hapoel Acre 3-2 on the road.
(43) and Sintiyahu Salalik (46) put Acre in pole position, but goals from Shahar
Balilti (50) and Armon Ben-Naim (58) leveled the score and Dominique Wassi’s
winner in the third minute of stoppage time gave Petah Tikva a dramatic win.