Mac. TA bests Mac. Haifa 1-0 to take over first place

macabi fans 88 224 (photo credit: AP)
macabi fans 88 224
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv slipped by Maccabi Haifa 1-0 at the new Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa as the yellow-and-blue moved into sole possession of first place. Despite just one goal being scored in the contest, there was plenty of action and controversy that was witnessed by over 26,000 fans.
 The Carmel Greens came into the match very confident that they could stand toe to toe with Maccabi which forced coach Vladimir Ivic’s hand to play the same formation as Marko Balbul’s Haifa. Midway through the first half, Haifa defender Eyad Habshi and keeper Guy Haimov both attempted to block a Maccabi cross but their heads clashed leaving both players on the ground. Habshi was patched up but taken off a few minutes later, while Haimov was being cared for by the club doctor who called for the shot stopper to be substituted. However, Coach Marko Balbul allowed Haimov to remain in the game at the behest of his keeper.
 Maccabi got on the board a few minutes later when Andre Geraldes served up a 37th minute corner that was headed by Nick Blackman and caromed into the goal by the left post off of Haifa’s Australian central defender Trent Sainsbury.
 Just before the halftime break, Haimov was clipped in the head once again when he went to smother the ball and was stretchered off the pitch and taken to the hospital for tests. American Josh Cohen came on to replace Haimov and kept his goal clean, but so did his counterpart Daniel Tenenbaum in the Maccabi goal as the hosts grabbed the three points. Maccabi will now prepare for Tuesday night’s Toto Cup Final against Beitar Jerusalem.
 “These are 3 very important points,” explained Maccabi coach Ivic following the game. “We had many good opportunities but there are also things we still need to improve on”
 Midfielder Dor Micha also commented about the team’s play, “There are situations when you have to play for a result, and that’s what we did today. Even though our level is not at its highest at the moment, we battled and showed determination.”
 “I’m very disappointed as we didn’t start the game well and we lost many battles,” stated Balbul. “We weren’t dangerous and this was not a good game. We will have to regroup both mentally and physically for our next match.”
MEANWHILE, Beitar Jerusalem defeated Kiryat Shmona 2-0 as the capital city side picked up their first win of the league campaign. After a goalless first half, Roni Levy’s squad came out of the break on fire as Gadi Kinda put home an Antoine Conte cross into the box for a 1-0 lead. Tamir Adi doubled the advantage in the 71st minute when he slotted home the ball from long distance as Beitar wrapped up a tidy 2-0 win ahead of their Toto Cup Final with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
 “This was a crucial win which takes a lot of pressure off of us,” said Beitar Coach Roni Levy. “Now we have the Toto Cup Final against the league champion. We don’t have much time to prepare but we will do the maximum to win the trophy.”
 Also, Maccabi Netanya and Kfar Saba played to a thrilling 2-2 draw. Kfar Saba broke the first half stalemate when Boubacar Traore laced as low liner just from the top right of the area past a helpless Dani Amos for a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute. But Netanya stormed back to go ahead 2-1 when Aviv Avraham fired home the equalizer into the top shelf and Spaniard Roman Golobart scored in the box. However, deep into stoppage time Omer Fadida was pulled down by Almog Cohen as the former converted the 99th minute penalty to earn a split of the points.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Ra’anana hosted Ashdod as the sides played to a 1-1 draw at the Moshava Stadium. Adi Nimni sent a smart ball to Or Dasa in the box as the latter scored the opening strike to give Ra’anana a 1-0 lead. However, Ashdod’s Roie Gordana scorched a laser beam of a shot from well outside of the area to cleanly beat Ra’anana keeper Asaf Tzur and hand his squad a hard earned and well deserved point.
Hapoel Hadera continued their winning ways as they dropped Hapoel Haifa 2-1 away at Sammy Ofer Stadium. Eliel Peretz opened the scoring for Ori Gutman’s squad off a Roie Zikri assist while the same Zikri then blasted the ball past Jasmin Buric for a 2-0 lead. Gidi Kanuk scored his second goal in as many games when he drove the ball behind Austin Ejide but it was too little too late for Haim Silvas’s Haifa to steal a point.
 Bnei Yehuda’s 6th minute strike by Tambi Sagas was all they needed to get past Ness Tziona 1-0 at the Moshava Stadium and take the three points.