Maccabi Haifa keeps control of driver’s seat

Greens shut out Hapoel Tel Aviv • Yellow-and-blue creeps up standings • Hadera blanks Beitar

 Maccabi Haifa players celebrating. (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
Maccabi Haifa players celebrating.
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)

Maccabi Haifa got by Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-0 on Monday night in Israeli Premier League action as the Greens scored a pair of second-half goals to secure the three points and increase their lead atop the table.

Dean David slammed home a corner kick in the 61st minute while Tjaron Chery doubled the advantage eight minutes later to wrap up the victory.

“It was good to come back home to win after last week’s game in Kiryat Shmona,” Haifa coach Barak Bachar explained. “We controlled the pace of play throughout the game and it was a tough win but one that we deserved. There are no easy games, we try to make them easy but there is no such thing as an easy game.”

“We knew that Haifa would play attacking soccer and we came to play as well, but we couldn’t create chances,” Hapoel coach Kobi Refuah said. “We are still battling for a playoff spot and hopefully we will be there. But our offensive game here was just not good enough.”

In other action, Maccabi Tel Aviv used a pair of second-half goals to defeat Hapoel Haifa 2-0 as the yellow-and-blue continued to move up the standings.

  BARAK BACHAR (inset) has his Maccabi Haifa squad clicking on all cylinders, with the latest victory for the first-place Greens a 2-0 conquest of visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv. (credit: MAOR ELKASLASI) BARAK BACHAR (inset) has his Maccabi Haifa squad clicking on all cylinders, with the latest victory for the first-place Greens a 2-0 conquest of visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv. (credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)

After a goalless first half, Stipe Perica slotted home a 54th-minute penalty after a handball in the box was called on the Carmel Reds while Matan Baltaxa headed home Maccabi’s second goal off a Brandley Kuwas pass to hand the 2-0 victory to Malden Krstajic’s squad.

“We expected a tough game and we had a bad first half, but we gave the maximum in two side half,” Krstajic said. “We wanted to win and maybe that is why we made some mistakes in the first half as the players wanted to put on a good show.

“As for getting back into the title race I don’t want to talk about that now and I just want us to keep playing well.”

A disappointed Haifa coach Elisha Levi lamented the missed opportunity by his club.

“We played well for 60 minutes, but the name of the game is to take advantage of good opportunities and if not you won’t beat Maccabi,” said Levi. “We still believe that we can get into the championship playoffs as long as there is still a chance, and there is.”

Also, Hapoel Hadera slipped by Beitar Jerusalem 1-0 thanks to a first-half penalty goal by Maxim Plakuschenko to give the hosts the three points and the victory.

“My players are true heroes,” Hadera coach Menachem Koretsky began. “They battle so hard and I am so proud of them for that. We still need to complete our mission of advancing to the championship playoffs and I have to make sure that the guys are grounded so that we can get another two or three points at least to do so.”

Beitar coach Yossi Abukasis commented on his team’s effort.

“We weren’t sharp enough in the final third of the pitch,” said Akukasis. “We can’t earn points by holding onto the ball and while we played well up until that last third, we had three chances to score and couldn’t. We didn’t deserve to lose and the guys gave it their all as we had opportunities and we played well.”

Meanwhile, Hapoel Beersheba and Ironi Kiryat Shmona played to a dry scoreless draw at Turner Stadium in the southern capital.

“We expected to win and we always aim to win at home,” Beersheba coach Roni Levy said. “The fans really pushed us and the players did everything except make that final pass and last shot on goal. It’s disappointing, but we still have a long way to go.”

In the capital city, Hapoel Jerusalem blanked Ashdod SC 2-0 as the Reds picked up an important three points in their battle against relegation.

Guni Naor opened the scoring as he put in a 36th-minute corner kick, while on-loan striker Eduardo Guerrero scored in the insurance goal in the 90th minute to give the capital city squad the win.

“We are really far off to where we need to be with points and there isn’t time to celebrate the win,” noted Jerusalem coach Ziv Arie. “We will take a day or so to recuperate and then start working on our next game against Kiryat Shmona. There are three teams battling against relegation and it won’t be easy.”

Elsewhere, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Maccabi Netanya played to a 1-1 draw with both goals scored over the course of the final 10 minutes of the contest.

Following a goalless first half, Patrick Twumasi found the back of the goal in the 84th minute to give Benny Lam’s Netanya a 1-0 lead.

However, just minutes later Aboubacar Doumbia beat ’keeper Dani Amos from 18 meters as the sides split the points in a dramatic end.

“I’m disappointed because we had chances in the first half to score a goal,” Petah Tikva coach Nir Klinger said following the game. “At least I can say that we saw a second half that I wanted to see from the players. Some of our new players are finally getting into shape as well and I believe that if we can play like this, we will move out of last place.”

Up north, Bnei Sakhnin defeated Hapoel Nof Hagalil 2-0 in the Galilee Derby to earn three important points as they look to find a way into the championship playoffs.

Guy Melamed fed Ari Moura with a terrific ball as the latter beat ’keeper Matan Amber to give Sakhnin a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute.

Late second-half substitute Mufleh Shalata added an insurance goal in the 90th minute to secure the win.

“We are battling for a playoff spot against every team and we will prove worthy every match that we play,” an excited Sakhnin coach Haim Silvas said following the game. “This was a critical game for us and we showed who the better team was on the pitch. We controlled the game in front of our fans and it was a sweet victory.”