Maccabi Haifa stunned Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-2 on Monday night as the Greens scored three unanswered goals in the final quarter-hour of the game to take the three points and keep pace with first-place Hapoel Beersheba.
The victory at Sammy Ofer Stadium was Haifa’s first in league play over the yellow-and-blue in more than five years as the Greens had gone winless in 16 straight matches.
Mladen Krstajic’s Tel Aviv charges jumped all over the Barak Bachar’s squad in the first minute, when Eduardo Guerrero sent a good ball into the box off a corner kick and it was inadvertently headed by Dolev Haziza behind his own ’keeper, Josh Cohen, for a 1-0 lead.
Eden Shamir doubled Mac TA’s advantage 15 minutes later when sent a beautiful ball into the Haifa goal from 20 meters out in what was clearly a goal-of-the-season candidate.
As the yellow-and-blue continued to control the pace of play, Bachar inserted Godsway Donyoh in the 71st minute, which changed the entire complexion of the game.
Five minutes after entering the contest, Donyoh sent a magnificent through-ball to Tjaron Chery, who beat Tel Aviv ’keeper Daniel Peretz to cut the lead to 2-1.
Just a few minutes later, Donyoh drew the Greens even at 2-2 when he slammed home an Omer Atzili pass in the 79th minute.
Haifa continued to press and found the winner in the 87th minute when Atzili sent a goalmouth pass right onto the foot of an oncoming Dean David, who scored from in close to shock the yellow-and-blue and take the victory.
“This was tough, but we did it as winners,” Bachar said following the clash. “The early goals put us under pressure and at halftime I told the players that we needed to calm down and do what we normally do on the pitch and we will come back and maybe even win the game.
“The deficit put us in a situation that we hadn’t been in all season long, but we were able to pull it together.”
Haifa’s Muhammed Abu Fani also reflected on the win.
“This was a very hard game for us and we were able to come back to take the win. We are very mentally strong and showed that in this game. Our goal is to find our way into first place and we will focus on our own play going forward.”
Krstajic was disappointed with the result.
“The game was under control but we will need to analyze what happened in the second half,” said the Tel Aviv coach. “We knew that Haifa would take some risks and I am not satisfied with the reaction of the players. We also had some injuries and perhaps that played a factor in our losing our minds on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, at Bloomfield Stadium Hapoel Tel Aviv slipped by Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1 on a second-half injury-time goal by substitute Yoav Tomer to take the three points.
After a scoreless first half, Osher Davida scored a brilliant goal on a terrific individual effort as he glided into the box and went by a number of players to give the Reds a 1-0 lead.
However, five minutes later Lameck Banda found the back of the goal to draw Nir Klinger’s team even.
But on the final play of the game, Tomer headed home a free kick to snatch the points for Kobi Refuah’s squad.
“We played quality soccer in the first half, but just not good enough,” said Refuah. “However, in the second half we saw a team that wanted to win and we made sure that Petah Tikva had no chances to score. This win was as sweet as they come and this was arguably our best game.”
Down south, Hapoel Beersheba overwhelmed Bnei Sakhnin 3-0 thanks to a Nikita Rukavytsya brace to take the points and remain atop the table.
Rukavytsya opened the scoring just ahead of the break as the striker scored off a Ramzi Safouri pass for a 1-0 lead.
Roni Levy’s side added an insurance marker just one minute into the second half via David Petrucelli, while Rukavytsya scored his second goal of the game as he took an Or Dadia ball to complete his brace.
In the capital city, Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Hadera drew 1-1 as the Reds’ Guy Hadida played a central role for both teams at Teddy Stadium as each side took a point for their efforts.
Hadida scored an own-goal in the 33rd minute off an errant header in the box that went by his own Jerusalem ’keeper.
However, Hadida made up for his gaffe 10 minutes later when he nodded the ball home to draw his squad even at 1-1 by the break.
In the 74th minute, Hadida was sent off with a second yellow card, but Hadera was unable to capitalize with a man advantage and find a way to take the win as the game ended tied.
“Up until the red card we were the better team,” Jerusalem bench boss Ziv Arie said. “Hadera had a chance here and there and they scored which made us have to chase after the score. We really needed to win, but we are still above the relegation zone.”
Elsewhere, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Haifa drew 2-2 in an entertaining match in the northern capital.
The hosts struck first when Roie Kehat volleyed home the first goal of the game, but Alen Ozbalt helped the Carmel Reds draw even at 1-1 just before the end of the first half.
Nes Zamir gave the visitors a 2-1 lead when he scored in the box for Haifa, but Itamar Shviro found the tying goal as he beat Ohad Levita to split the points.
“We were much better in the first half and should have been leading,” explained Kiryat Shmona coach Slobodan Drapic. “This is the team I want to see. Perhaps we were a bit naïve and we gave up a goal out of nowhere. After we made some changes, we were able to come back and tie up the game.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Netanya and Beitar Jerusalem played to a 0-0 dry goalless draw as the squads split the points at the Netanya Stadium.
Also, Ashdod SC blanked Hapoel Nof Hagalil 3-0 at a home game that was played at Bloomfield Stadium.
Muhammad Kna’an opened the scoring with an eighth-minute goal, Yakov Brihen doubled the advantage 40 minutes later while Oz Bilu scored deep into second-half injury time to wrap up the dominant win.
“This was a fantastic game for us,” Ashdod coach Rav Ben Shimon said. “For the most part this season we have played well and I am very proud of the players. We have plenty more goals ahead for this season.”