Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Maccabi Petah Tikva 3-1 in Israel Premier Action as Eduardo Guerrero scored a late second-half brace to capture the three points for the league leader.
Aleksandar Pesic gave the yellow-and-blue a 1-0 lead as he pounded home a long rebound off of ’keeper Arik Yanko in the first half. However, starlet Liel Abada found the equalizer in the 66th minute after he cleaned up his teammate Morgan Ferrier’s missed opportunity.
But just as it looked like the teams would split the points, youngster Guerrero stepped up and scored a brilliant strike from just outside of the box in the 86th minute and then added the insurance marker on a counter-attack to hand the defending champion the points to stay atop the table.
“It’s fantastic to see such an amazing end to the game,” said a content Maccabi coach Patrick van Leeuwen. “The second goal was a big moment for Guerrero, who went through our academy. This was the decisive goal, but we should have even scored that in the first half. It was a very important goal.”
The man of the match, Guerrero, also commented on his pair of goals.
“This game was another step towards our goal. Only if we play together can we win and reach that goal. This wasn’t a championship goal, this was just one win.”
Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon complimented his team’s effort.
“We were in the game up until the last minute,” said Luzon. “We felt that we could find the tying goal and we played well, but our opponent was excellent. I’m never happy to lose and I am disappointed with the result, but I am satisfied as to how we fought.”
Elsewhere, Almog Buzaglo scored an injury-time equalizer for Bnei Yehuda to draw 1-1 at Bnei Sakhnin in a critical relegation playoff clash.
Hagay Goldenberg found the back of the goal with a gorgeous right-footed curling 15-meter strike to put the hosts ahead in the 23rd minute at Doha Stadium as it looked that Sharon Mimer’s squad would notch the win.
However, Almog Buzaglo had other plans as he scored from in close in the 91st minute to see the sides split the points.
“I’m happy about the goal and a draw is certainly better than a loss, but we wanted to win and played to win,” said Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abukasis. “We played a lot of attackers, but we just didn’t create enough opportunities. Of course, we are in a pressure-packed situation and as every game goes by our chances of staying in the top league decrease, however, if we would have lost that would have been the end for us.”
Mimer rued the missed opportunity for his Bnei Yehuda side.
“It’s very disappointing to give up a goal in the 90th minute after being in the lead,” said Mimer. “We needed to kill the game and score a second goal which we will need to work on this week. Until we don’t guarantee our survival in the top league we won’t relax.”
Meanwhile, Hapoel Haifa blanked Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-0 to get the Elisha Levy era off to a positive start with a win.
After missing two excellent chances earlier in the match, William Agada finally found the back of the goal when he took a perfect through-ball from Alon Turgeman and put it past Reds ’keeper Ernestas Setkus for a 1-0 lead just before the break.
Turgeman once again assisted on a Haifa strike when he fed Hanan Maman in the 79th minute to double the advantage and take the three points.
“This was a very difficult game to play against Hapoel Tel Aviv with their supporters at Bloomfield Stadium,” said Levy. “At the end of the day, the better team won and we were able to control the ball and create many chances by distributing the ball well as the players really came to play in this very important game. This was an excellent result.”
“We began the game very well but we made a mistake and gave up a goal,” Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Nir Klinger said following the contest. “We tried to get back into it in the second half, but we weren’t organized enough and gave them too much open space.”
Up north, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Beersheba played to a 1-1 draw in pouring rain.
Lucio found the back of the goal early on in the first half thanks to a nice team play to give the hosts the advantage. However, Josue scored perhaps the goal of the season from 18 meters out after controlling the ball off of his chest in the 75th minute to give his team a point.
“I believe that we played very well and that we controlled the pace of play throughout,” Beersheba coach Ronni Levy explained. “We gave up a goal on perhaps their only chance of the game which put us under a bit of pressure. Josue is a fantastic player and makes a huge difference for us which one could see with the goal that he scored. It’s fun to coach such a player.”
Also, Maccabi Netanya slipped by Beitar Jerusalem 1-0 on a third-minute goal by Gaby Kanichowsky to take the three points.
“We are very happy with the win and it was important to score an early goal,” said a satisfied Netanya coach Raymond Atteveld. “We pressed from the outset and we took advantage of the opportunity as we controlled the game and took the points.”
“This was a very poor performance,” noted Beitar’s interim coach Yossi Mizrachi. “Netanya was much more aggressive than us and they deserved to win. We keep making the same mistakes over and over again – giving up an early goal – and then we have to chase after our opponent. How can it be that we didn’t have one chance all game?”
Hapoel Kfar Saba fell to Hapoel Hadera 2-1 as the Sharon Greens moved closer to being relegated to the Leumit League as they sit in the cellar of the top division.
Gustavo Marmentini opened the scoring when he took a terrific Maxim Plakuschenko ball and put it behind Matan Zalmanovitch right before the halftime break, while Odah Marshall doubled the advantage in the second half to give Menachem Koretzky’s squad a commanding 2-0 lead.
Or Dasa pulled a goal back for Kfar Saba, but it wasn’t enough as Hadera took the three points.
“We still have to ensure our own survival in the league,” said Hadera coach Menachem Koretzky. “We still need two or three more points, but we took a huge step in staying up and the players deserve a lot of credit. I’m proud of the guys.”
Kfar Saba coach Ravid Gezel sees his team’s top-flight survival slipping away.“There is still a small chance but it’s going to be really tough,” said Gezel. “If we are relegated we have to do it as a club like men. It won’t be easy to encourage the guys, but what can we do as long as there is a chance, we have to keep going.”