Mac TA cuts into Mac Haifa’s league lead

Reigning champion within five points of Greens • 3rd-place Petah Tikva wins • Hap TA blanks Beitar

MACCABI TEL AVIV players celebrate after their injury-time winner secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Maccabi Haifa in Israeli Premier League action at Bloomfield Stadium.  (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
MACCABI TEL AVIV players celebrate after their injury-time winner secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Maccabi Haifa in Israeli Premier League action at Bloomfield Stadium.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
 Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Maccabi Haifa 2-1 in the Israeli Classico on Wednesday night as Aleksandar Pešic slotted home a 95th-minute injury time penalty to snatch the three points.

With the victory, the yellow-and-blue closed the gap with the Greens at the top of the table to just five points as the championship race is officially on.

The game started on the wrong foot for Maccabi Tel Aviv as Dolev Haziza lofted a ball into the yellow-and-blue box that went off of both Itay Shechter and Shahar Piven before finding its way behind keeper Daniel Tenenbaum for an own-goal in the 19th minute.

However, just one minute later Matan Hozez played a perfect ball to Tal Ben Chaim, who beat Greens ’keeper Josh Cohen to level the score at 1-1.

The tension built throughout the game with both sides creating a number of quality chances.

Haifa defender Bogdan Planic tripped up Matan Hozez in the area as the Maccabi winger fell to the ground, handing the hosts a 95th-minute penalty. Pešic confidently stepped up and slammed it into the goal to give Maccabi Tel Aviv the critical victory.

“We had a tough time in the first half, but recovered in the second when we played soccer,” said a relieved Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Patrick Van Leeuwen. “I then started to believe that the chances would begin to come. We have a long way to go but we made a good step forward and we will continue this way.”

Haifa coach Barak Bachar spoke about the tough defeat.

“It’s painful to lose this way, especially in such an important game. We should have been leading already in the first half. We slowed the pace down in the second and gave up a bad goal. That’s soccer. We should have never given them that chance when the score was 1-1 in the 90th minute.”

Meanwhile, Maccabi Petah Tikva slipped by Hapoel Haifa 2-1 as Liel Abada once again scored an injury-time goal to complete the comeback and snatch the win.

William Agada gave the Carmel Reds an early 1-0 lead, but Tai Baribo drew Guy Luzon’s squad even in the 85th minute. But who else would come to the rescue but the new Israeli starlet Abada, as he pounded the ball home in the 91st minute to give Petah Tikva the victory.

“We are a team of winners,” declared Guy Luzon following the game. “We didn’t play well in the first half and we made the correct adjustments and made substitutes. We believe that we can win every game and it’s the second time we’ve come back against a quality opponent.”

Haifa coach Haim Silvas looked back at the defeat.

“After having the advantage in all elements, from creating chances and also leading, we began the second half poorly and couldn’t get anything going.”

Also, Hapoel Tel Aviv downed Beitar Jerusalem 1-0 in the capital city.

Omri Altman finished off a brilliant individual play by Osher Davida as Nir Klinger’s team shut down the yellow-and-black to record the victory.

“This was a very important win,” said Klinger. “It was a critical victory for us and when we play calmly we look good. We had chances to even win by a larger margin. We have a long tough road ahead, but we will continue to move forward by taking small steps.”

“We can’t play soccer this way,” said an agitated Beitar co-coach Shay Barda. “This is not the Jerusalem team we want to be. We may have controlled the second half, but it wasn’t enough. we didn’t play smart and we have to play better in our next game.”

Down south, Ashdod SC walloped Bnei Yehuda 4-0 as four different players scored in the win for Ran Ben Shimon’s squad.
Dean David nodded home a Shlomi Azoulay corner in the 25th minute to give the hosts a 1-0 lead going into the break.
Mohammad Kna’an and Fahad Bayo each scored as the other assisted on the pair of goals to give Ashdod a 3-0 advantage as Yakov Brihen finished the game off with a late strike to finish off struggling Bnei Yehuda.

“This was a fun game to watch,” said an ecstatic Ben Shimon. “We put a lot into this game and that is why we were sharp and focused in order to play the way we did which was beautiful to see.”

Elsewhere, Hapoel Beersheba squeaked by Hapoel Hadera 1-0 thanks to a late goal by David Keltjens to take the points for Yossi Abukasis’s squad.

The Southern Reds were playing for the first time back at their home field, Turner Stadium, after renovations were made to the facility’s roof and it took until the 75th minute until they finally broke the ice back on familiar turf.

Ramzi Safuri sent a cross into the box that Keltjens got a his head on to put by ’keeper Robi Levkovich to hand the hosts the win.

“This was a very tough game and we were missing a number of key players,” said Abukasis. “I am happy that I can say that after a win and not a loss. A player like Josue is so crucial for the team and he was missing as were a number of attackers, but a win is a win.”

Keltjens reflected on his goal.

“I waited to get back to Turner Stadium. Although it took some time, it’s really our home stadium and I am happy I was able to help the club return home and take the points.”

“We came in prepared and had more chances but like other games, the opponent scored a lucky goal,” explained Hadera coach Sharon Mimer. “We had to be more accurate with our chances and it’s too bad because we had some really great ones, but we unfortunately conceded instead.”

Maccabi Netanya got by Hapoel Kfar Saba 1-0 on as Kevaughn Frater scored a first-half injury-time goal thanks to an assist by Hen Ezra to give his side the three points.