Maccabi Haifa maintains solid 1st-place lead

Greens now prep for big test vs Mac TA • Beitar blanks Kiryat Shmona • Petah Tikva tops Ashdod.

MACCABI HAIFA has four more wins (12) than any other team in the Israel Premier League through 16 games and holds an eight-point lead atop the standings. (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
MACCABI HAIFA has four more wins (12) than any other team in the Israel Premier League through 16 games and holds an eight-point lead atop the standings.
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
Maccabi Haifa downed Bnei Sakhnin 3-0 on Saturday in Israeli Premier League action as it continues to hold an eight-point lead on Maccabi Tel Aviv atop the table with the two set to duel on Wednesday night.
Sakhinn entered the match with a number of players unavailable due to the coronavirus. Dolev Haziza set up Sun Menachem on the first goal at the 40th minute while the league’s goal leader Nikita Rukavytsya used a 65th-minute spot-kick to double the advantage.
Haziza then wrapped up the victory with an injury-time penalty to give the Barak Bachar’s Greens the three points.
“No one thought that this game would be easy,” Bachar said. “We played against a team that battled and we finally were able to find a way to score, which I am happy about. It was important to get a win after the break.”
Sakhnin coach Niso Avitan gave his thoughts on the game.
“We did the best that we could in the situation. I can’t fault the players and Haifa and the score doesn’t really reflect the actual game. We could have complained or refused to show up to play, but we are sportsmen and played despite the situation we have been in.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv dominated Maccabi Netanya 3-1 in a one-sided affair as the yellow-and-blue ready for the big clash later in the week.
Yonatan Cohen opened the scoring as he finished off a nice passing play by Tal Ben Chaim and Itay Shechter to give Patrick van Leeuwen’s squad a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute.
Dor Peretz took care of a brilliant long pass from ’keeper Daniel Tenenbaum after a brutal error by Kellian van der Kaap and put the ball by Dani Amos for a 2-0 lead ahead of the break.
Substitutes Elyon Almog, Matan Hozez and Eduardo Guerrero teamed up as the latter found the back of the goal in the 79th minute to give Tel Aviv the 3-0 lead, while Kevaughn Frater notched a late strike back to get on Netanya the board and break the shutout.
“This wasn’t our best game,” said van Leeuwen. “We played at a slow pace in the first half despite scoring two goals because we could have scored even more. We had opportunities, but missed plenty of chances. Now that we are finished with Netanya we can turn our attention to Haifa on Wednesday.”
Cohen, who had to come out of the game early due to an injury, looked back at the win.
“We go into every game to win and I’m happy that we did that today. There was only one team on the pitch. We’re behind Haifa by eight points, which wasn’t where we had planned to be, but hopefully I will be ready to go.”
“We didn’t play well and we had chances to cut the lead but couldn’t do it,” explained Netanya coach Raymond Atteveld. “I feel that the players gave too much respect to Maccabi Tel Aviv. You can do that before and after the game, but not during it.”
Elsewhere, Beitar Jerusalem blanked Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-0 up north as the yellow-and-black earned the three points.
Ali Muhammad opened the scoring early as the midfielder headed home a Shay Konstantin cross to in the second minute. Yarden Shua added a 50th-minute insurance marker as he beat two defenders and placed the ball perfectly into the right corner of the goal for the victory.
During the course of the game, Roie Fadida who was not with the team, tested positive for the coronavirus.”
“We wanted to win the game,” said Beitar co-coach Shay Barda. “We were a bit rusty due to the break, but we will improve. There was a lot of desire on the players’ part. As for the coronavirus, that’s part of soccer right now and I hope that Fadida will get well soon and hopefully we will all test negative.”
Also, Maccabi Petah Tikva stunned Ashdod SC 2-1 as starlet Liel Abada scored a 91st-minute header to take the three points.
Ashdod grabbed a 1-0 lead on a Sagiv Yehezkel strike in the 16th minute, but Armando Cooper slotted home a penalty seven minutes later after Or Inbrum was yanked down in the box.
Abada looked to have given Guy Luzon’s squad the lead right before halftime, but his goal was ruled to be offside by the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR). However, he made up for it as the match went into second-half injury time.
Daniel Golani raced to keep the ball in the field of play on the sideline and then sent a pinpoint perfect cross into the box that Abada headed past Yoav Gerafi to secure the victory.
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Haifa played to a dramatic 2-2 draw in a game that featured three penalties at Bloomfield Stadium.
Ben Bitton, who was making his debut with the Reds, lofted a ball in the box that Ruslan Barsky handled for the first spot-kick of the match, which Omri Altman promptly put behind Haifa ’keeper Ran Kadosh for a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.
Just 10 minutes later, Altman doubled the advantage via a second penalty after yet another handball in the box, this time by Dor Malul.
However, in the 42nd minute William Agada was pulled down in the area, giving Hanan Maman the opportunity from the spot to pull within a goal at 2-1 in favor of Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Haim Silvas’s Carmel Reds pressed throughout the second half and their hard work paid off when Raz Stain drew his side even to split the points.
“I’m disappointed and I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating since we were down 2-0,” said Silvas following the game. “But we came into the game to win and we didn’t start off well. We began to play better and had chances to win. All in all, I am content that we were able to come back.”
“Many players weren’t in shape to play 90 minutes at the same pace,” explained Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Nir Klinger. “Since we added a number of new players, I did see a team that was very energetic, experienced and with leadership. We solved some of the issues but there is still plenty to fix.”