Maccabi Haifa widens gap atop standings

Greens shut out Beersheba as Mac TA, Netanya draw • Hap TA stuns Sakhnin • Beitar beats Ashdod

Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beersheba clashed on Monday night at Sammy Ofer Stadium, with the league-leading Greens emerging with a 2-0 home victory (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beersheba clashed on Monday night at Sammy Ofer Stadium, with the league-leading Greens emerging with a 2-0 home victory
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)

Maccabi Haifa beat Hapoel Beersheba 2-0 in a hotly contested battle on Monday night as the Greens opened up a seven-point gap atop the table by the Carmel Mountain.

In a controversial officiating decision, Israeli international referee Orel Grinfeld issued a second yellow card to Danilo Asprilla in the closing minutes of the first half on a slight head-butt from behind to Jose Rodriguez.

The red card left the Southern Reds down a man for the entire second half, which the Greens took full advantage of following a goalless opening 45 minutes of play.

Mohammed Abu Fani sent a screamer into the far corner of the goal from the top left of the box to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute and sent the sold-out crowd into a frenzy.

Barak Bachar’s squad doubled the advantage soon thereafter when Sun Menachem also found the far corner of Omri Glazer’s goal to put the final touches on the win and take the three points.

Beersheba coach Barak Bachar (credit: DANNY MAROM)Beersheba coach Barak Bachar (credit: DANNY MAROM)

“This was an important win in what was a very aggressive game,” Bachar said following the game. “We controlled the first half, but it was a tough matchup that had a lot of start-and-go situations. In the second half we knew how to take advantage of the extra man, but this is a very tough playoff and while this was an important step towards the championship there are still 24 points left and we need to hold off on any type of celebration.”

Beersheba’s coach Elyaniv Barda shared a different perspective.

“This was a very tough game and I am very disappointed,” Barda said. “We didn’t play well in the first half, especially on the attack. The red card decided the game, but now we have Hapoel Tel Aviv coming up and we will learn from our mistakes and make sure that we are ready.”

Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Netanya played to a 1-1 draw at the Netanya Stadium to split the points.

Avi Rikan slammed home a free kick in the 24th minute to give the yellow-and-blue a 1-0 lead, while minutes later it looked as if Maccabi scored a pair more via Djorde Jovanovic and Tal Ben Chaim, but both goals were called offside and Mladen Krstajic’s squad went into the break with a one-goal lead.

However, the advantage didn’t hold up for long as Aviv Avraham took a Hen Ezra pass to beat Daniel Peretz to earn a point apiece.

“It was a difficult game and we took a 1-0 lead, but Netanya took some risks and tried to win the second half,” Krstajic said. “I have no complaints; the players gave their maximum. We came here to have a good season and it will be tough for any big team to win so many games in a row. Sometimes there are periods of time when you just can’t score.”

Elsewhere, Hapoel Tel Aviv slipped by Bnei Sakhnin as the Reds scored two late goals to come back and take the 2-1 victory at Bloomfield Stadium.

Guy Melamed opened the scoring with a goal in the 43rd minute, but Yoav Tomer scored in the 84th minute off of a Shlomi Azulay assist to draw even as the visitors tried to hold on for a draw.

However, Hapoel would have none of that as this time Tomer sent Azulay a fine ball at the top of the box that he put into the Sakhnin goal deep into injury time to take the three points.

“I believe that we were the better team throughout the entire game,” Hapoel coach Kobi Refuah said. “We could have scored one or two goals in the first half. We waited a long time to see what Shlomi Azulay could do and I had faith in him the whole time.”

Also, Beitar Jerusalem just got by Ashdod SC 1-0 as Gleofilo Hasselbaink scored the lone goal off of a Yarden Shua pass in the 21st minute to give the capital city side the three points and the win at Teddy Stadium.

“A big club with this type of huge crowd gets these types of opportunities,” Beitar coach Yossi Abukasis said following the win. “This game was similar to the one against Hapoel Haifa but we were more accurate this time around. We had a wonderful first half and their ’keeper made sure that we didn’t score two or three more goals.”

“We are in a very messy situation which has been the story of our season,” Ashdod bench boss Rav Ben Shimon explained. “We played a miserable first half and while we were able to eventually do some pretty nice things in the midfield we couldn’t convert those chances to goals.”

At the Moshava Stadium, Maccabi Petah Tikva hosted Hapoel Haifa to a goalless draw as time is beginning to run out on Nir Klinger’s team, which is trying to avoid relegation.

While Petach Tikva controlled the pace of play for the most part it was the Carmel Reds who found the back of the goal via Alon Turgeman, but the marker was ruled to be offside by the VAR (Virtual Referee Assistant) as the sides split the points.

“The result was determined by the defensive style of the game,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “No one enjoys a 0-0 draw and we scored what we feel were good goals, but unfortunately the VAR ruled otherwise. I’ll take the result and that’s it from this game as we kept our distance from the relegation zone.”

In the capital city, Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Nof Hagalil played to a scoreless draw in a critical bottom-of-the-table clash at Teddy Stadium as both squads had chances to break the deadlock but couldn’t find the back of the goal.

“We looked ok in this game and I am not disappointed as I was after the match against Hadera,” Jerusalem coach Ziv Arie explained. “We created chances and could have scored and we held Nof Hagalil to opportunities just off of our own turnovers. We all want to stay up in the league but it’s not that simple.”

At the Netanya Stadium, Ironi Kiryat Shmona smashed Hapoel Hadera 4-1 as the northern capital squad scored a quartet of unanswered goals after going down early.

Maxim Plakuschenko handed the hosts a 1-0 lead via a 16th-minute penalty, but from that moment on it was all Kiryat Shmona.

Roie Kehat quickly found the equalizer when he jumped all over a Robi Levkovich rebound less than 10 minutes later while Mohammed Shaker latched onto a poorly executed back-pass to the ’keeper to give Slobodan Drapic’s team a 2-1 lead just ahead of the halftime break.

With the momentum all going in Kiryat Shmona’s favor, Itamar Shviro and Itay Ben Shabbat scored in the second half to hand the northerners the three-goal win.

“I told the players that we have to focus on what is left in the season and to be as professional and serious as possible in these games,” Drapic said. “Even when we gave up the first goal, I felt that we were in control and that the goals would eventually come. This win will now keep us in the league one hundred percent.”