Maccabi Tel Aviv gains ground on Beersheba for 2nd

After a tough game in Europe, it’s always good to maintain the level of intensity the entire match. We expected a difficult game and we were focused. This was an important win," said Mladen Krstajic.

 MACCABI TEL AVIV travelled to the Galilee on Monday night for a Premier League clash with Hapoel Nof Hagalil, with the yellow-and-blue netting a 3-1 triumph.  (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
MACCABI TEL AVIV travelled to the Galilee on Monday night for a Premier League clash with Hapoel Nof Hagalil, with the yellow-and-blue netting a 3-1 triumph.
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Nof Hagalil 3-1 on Monday night in Israel Premier League action as newcomer Dorde Jovanovic scored a first-half brace to pace the yellow-and-blue after having crashed out of UEFA Conference League play to PSV Eindhoven and Eran Zahavi last week.

Jovanovic gave Mladen Krstajic’s squad a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute as he scored from inside the box, and 10 minutes later Dan Bitton fed the Serbian striker for his second of the game and his fourth in as many matches.

Shay Barda’s team cut the lead to 2-1 as Bar Cohen set up Wahib Habiballa in the 38th minute, but just ahead of the break Bitton beat ’keeper Stefan Marinovic to add an insurance marker as Maccabi cruised to the two-goal win.

“I think we should have scored even more goals in the first half,” Krstajic commented following the contest. “After a tough game in Europe, it’s always good to maintain the level of intensity the entire match. We expected a difficult game and we were focused. This was an important win.”

Barda reflected on the result from his side’s perspective.

Serbian coach Mladen Krstajic was hired to lead Maccabi Tel Aviv for the rest of the season, with the yellow-and-blue seeking success locally and in Europe. (credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV/COURTESY)Serbian coach Mladen Krstajic was hired to lead Maccabi Tel Aviv for the rest of the season, with the yellow-and-blue seeking success locally and in Europe. (credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV/COURTESY)

“We were soft in the first 20 minutes and that is not acceptable for a team playing at this level,” the Nof Hagalil coach explained. “We were able to cut the lead and I am content as to how we played in the second half, but we haven’t been able to put together a few good games in a row.”

Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa slipped by Hapoel Haifa 1-0 in the Haifa derby by the Carmel Mountain as Barak Bachar’s squad continued to widen the gap atop the table. 

Tjaron Chery scored the lone goal of the game when he curled a gorgeous strike with his left foot behind Ohad Levita in the 17th minute to give the Greens the three points.

“This was not a simple game and we suffered in the second half, but it’s a derby and an important game,” Bachar said following the victory. “Hapoel pressed us all over the field and we couldn’t do whatever we wanted, but this was a crucial win and we are in a good spot with just two games ahead of the Championship Playoffs. This was a sweet win.”

At Bloomfield Stadium, Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Tel Aviv drew 1-1 to split the points.

As the first half neared its end, Dor Micha was issued a red card for a reckless foul in the midfield as Beersheba was reduced to 10 men for the balance of the game.

The Reds took immediate advantage as Shlomi Azoulay found the back of the goal just ahead of the break to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. However, substitute Sagiv Yehezkel found the equalizer in the 57th minute as he scored from in close as each side earned a point.

“Unfortunately we had a game plan that we worked on all week and we worked so hard on our offense and our press, but the red card turned everything upside down,” said Beersheba boss Roni Levy. “To find ourselves in a deficit at Bloomfield Stadium with these fans makes it very difficult, but we were able to come back and salvage something as the players fought very hard and succeeded.”

In the capital city, Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin played to an entertaining 1-1 draw at Teddy Stadium.

Ante Puljic scored from in close to give the visitors from the Galilee a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute, but Gleofilo Vlijter drew the hosts even when he sprinted down the left side of the pitch and sliced the ball into the goal to split the points.

“We played a tough team that was in very good shape,” noted Beitar coach Yossi Abukasis. “Last week we lost and we were very upset, and as a bottom-of-the-table team you need to know how to battle and fight it out for a point; we did this time around.”

Maccabi Netanya cruised to a 3-1 win over Ashdod SC as Igor Zlatanovic scored a brace at the port city.

Benny Lam’s squad got off to a quick start as Zlatanovic took a terrific pass, brought the ball down with his chest and blasted it into the far corner of Yoav Gerafi’s goal for a 1-0 lead in the second minute.

Zlatanovic scored his second off a Hen Ezra assist in the 81st minute, while soon thereafter Yuval Sadeh polished off an Eden Kartsev corner kick for a 3-0 advantage.

Muhammed Kna’an pulled a goal back for Ashdod when he broke up the clean sheet in the 93rd minute with a penalty kick, but it was too little, too late as the visitors took the points.

“We were a totally different team than the one from earlier in the season,” Lam explained. “Not only did we play great on the attack, but we also played terrific defense. Next week we want to have all of our fans with us and we want to clinch a spot in the Championship Playoffs and not wait until the final game of the regular season.”

Elsewhere, Maccabi Petah Tikva pounded Hapoel Hadera 4-1 as the last-place side improved its situation in the relegation battle.

Lameck Banda opened the scoring in the 26th minute while Aboubacar Doumbia added a second goal thanks to an Ion Nicolaescu assist just ahead of halftime to give Petah Tikva a 2-0 lead after 45 minutes of play.

Menashe Zalka pulled a goal back for Hadera early on in the second half, but Nicolaescu set Tomer Levi up for PT’s third goal while the aforementioned Nicolaescu found a marker of his own to wrap up the three-goal win.

“I am very satisfied with our game today,” said Petah Tikva coach Nir Klinger. “We have been in good shape since the Beitar game as we have been organized and very balanced, plus we also have a true striker. These were very important points, but we have to stay modest as we still have a long way to go. But we do control our own destiny.”

Up north, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Jerusalem played to a dry goalless draw to split the points.

“We earned a point at a very tough stadium and we will continue to battle,” Jerusalem coach Ziv Arie said following the game.

“We were dominant and played well, but we were missing something in the final 30 meters of the pitch with a pass or goal,” quipped Kiryat Shmona coach Slobodan Drapic.