Beersheba maintains tight lead atop table

Maccabi Haifa keeps pressure on • Jerusalem derby ends in draw, but Beitar gets technical victory

 MACCABI TEL AVIV and a feisty Maccabi Petah Tikva dueled at the Moshava Stadium on Monday night, with the yellow-and-blue emerging with a 2-1 road victory. (photo credit: BERNEY ARDOV)
MACCABI TEL AVIV and a feisty Maccabi Petah Tikva dueled at the Moshava Stadium on Monday night, with the yellow-and-blue emerging with a 2-1 road victory.
(photo credit: BERNEY ARDOV)

Israel Premier League leader Hapoel Beersheba scored a pair of unanswered goals to come from behind to knock off Hapoel Hadera 2-1 over the weekend to stay atop the table.

Shoval Gozlan opened the scoring in the 11th minute to give Menachem Koretzky’s squad a 1-0 lead, but Beersheba’s red-hot Ramzi Safouri put home a gorgeous strike from 30 meters out to head into the break with the teams all knotted up at 1-1.

Miguel Vitor then nodded home his second goal in as many games to secure the three points for Roni Levy’s side.

”I want to thank the fans for coming up to support us,” Levy said following the win. “We want them to enjoy our soccer and also the results. We are focusing on ourselves as we have a healthy competition at the top of the table with Maccabi Haifa. We want to continue to improve and there are definitely things that we can do better.”

Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa walloped Bnei Sakhnin 6-0 to keep the heat on at the top of the standings.

 TJARRON CHERY (center) and Maccabi Haifa will look to continue their impressive early run in the the Conference league with a first-leg play-off round duel Neftchi Baku tonight in Azerbaijan. (credit: REUTERS) TJARRON CHERY (center) and Maccabi Haifa will look to continue their impressive early run in the the Conference league with a first-leg play-off round duel Neftchi Baku tonight in Azerbaijan. (credit: REUTERS)

Ofri Arad opened with a 12th-minute goal off a corner kick set-play, while Omer Atzily found Dolev Haziza two minutes later to double the Greens’ advantage.

Marwan Kabha was sent off with a straight red card in the 40th minute, which allowed Atzili to score right at the stroke of halftime, and just minutes into the second half Tjaron Chery found the back of the goal to give Barak Bachar’s side a 4-0 advantage.

Atzili scored yet again and Maor Levi did as well late in the game to wrap up a rout.

“We are in the midst of a very tough battle at the top of the table and there isn’t any room to make a mistake or lose points,” Bachar noted. “We come into every game very well prepared and we started the game off well and the red card helped us as well. We did what we needed to do and we won every league game we had this past month. Now we have eight days to rest and prepare for Maccabi Tel Aviv.”

In the capital city, Beitar and Hapoel played to a 1-1 draw in the Jerusalem derby as the Reds scored the tying goal in second-half injury time.

However, Ziv Arie’s Hapoel squad will be handed a technical defeat due to fielding six foreign players on the pitch at the same time when he inserted Cletus Nombil into the game in the 77th minute.

Yossi Mizrachi’s team struck first, when Richmond Boakye scored from 13 meters out just ahead of the halftime break to give Beitar the lead.

Ondrej Baco headed home the equalizer for Hapoel off a corner kick in the 91st minute.

But it was all for not when Arie inadvertently brought on Nombil as Beitar’s fans cheered to their delight knowing that the game would end with three points and a 3-0 technical win for Beitar.

“I don’t want to get into the fact that Hapoel played six imports,” said Beitar’s coach Mizrachi. “I want to talk about the game itself, which should concern us all. We played well in the first half and pushed forward but in the second half we allowed Hapoel to dictate the pace of play and went backward. I felt awful when we gave up a 90th-minute goal on a set-piece like against Beersheba and this happens time and time again.”

Arie shouldered the blame for his mistake.

“I feel terrible and anything said about us is warranted,” said the Hapoel coach about fielding six foreign players. “We are a big organization, but the responsibility lies with me. This can never happen and I want to apologize to the fans, I don’t know what else to say. We played well in the second half but it means nothing now.”

At the Moshava Stadium on Monday night, Maccabi Tel Aviv slipped by Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1 to give new head coach Mladen Krstajic his first Israeli league win.

The yellow-and-blue scored a pair of early goals via Matan Hozez and Eden Shamir to take a quick 2-0 lead by the sixth minute. James Adeniyi pulled a goal back right before halftime Petah Tikva, but it wasn’t enough as the visitors took the three points.

“We opened the game well and scored two goals,” Krstajic said following the win. “We had more chances to score and I believe that we controlled the game in the second hall as well and we had the desire to win. Our fans really came out to support us today which was a very big help.”

Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon resigned following his team’s defeat.

“Our start put us in a bad spot and we were very soft in the opening 10 minutes,” said Luzon. “Maccabi could have scored even more at the beginning of the game. We settled down and came back with a goal. But we can’t allow what happened to occur again.”

Elsewhere, Hapoel Tel Aviv blanked Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-0 as captain Dan Einbinder scored a pair of half penalties in a wild second half that saw three players being sent off to hand Kobi Refuah’s club the three points.

After a goalless first half, Shai Elias was pulled down in the box good for an Einbinder spot kick to give the Reds a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute, while 20 minutes later Shlomo Azulay was also tripped up in the area, allowing the Hapoel captain to complete the penalty kick brace.

Up north, Hapoel Haifa got back onto the winning track with a  2-1 win over Ashdod SC at Sammy Ofer Stadium.

Kevin Tapoko sent a scorcher behind Yoav Gerafi in the 23rd minute to give the Carmel Reds the lead, but Mohammed Knaan found the equalizer 10 minutes into the second half to draw the visitors even.

However, Hanan Maman jumped all over an 89th-minute rebound for Elisha Levy’s squad to snatch the win and the three points.

“Finally a win for us and that is what is most important right now as it’s been a while since we picked up a victory, “ a thrilled Levy said following the game. “We showed character and didn’t fall apart after we gave up the tying goal. I hope that this win by the skin of our teeth will push us towards the championship playoffs.”

Also, Maccabi Netanya downed Hapoel Nof HaGalil 1-0 on an 84th-minute strike by Aboubacar Doumbia to take the points.

“The goal was to win, so I’m happy,” said Netanya coach Benny Lam. “This was also our third game in a row that we didn’t give up a goal and I’m even happier about that.”