Maccabi Haifa closes in on the championship

In the capital city, meanwhile, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Petah Tikva played to an entertaining 2-2 draw.

 MACCABI HAIFA players celebrate with each other on the pitch following their 2-0 away victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday night at Bloomfield Stadium. (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
MACCABI HAIFA players celebrate with each other on the pitch following their 2-0 away victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday night at Bloomfield Stadium.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)

Maccabi Haifa blanked host Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-0 on Monday night at Bloomfield Stadium with a goal in each half to inch closer to clinching the Israeli Premier League championship.

Omer Atzily scored for the first time in nine games as the midfielder put home a Tjaron Chery cross to give the Greens a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute, while Dolev Haziza added an insurance marker late in the second half to take the three points.

“We’re very close to taking the championship,” Haifa coach Barak Bachar said. “We took a very significant step towards the title with the win and there is one more game set for Turner Stadium against Beersheba where we can wrap it all up. Last week when we lost we got a real wake-up call and we made sure to come into this game to win.”

“Of course it’s not pleasant to lose the game,” commented Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Kobe Refuah. “We weren’t in the game in the first half and in the second we had some chances, but at the end of the day, their quality decided this match. We had a tough week after losing [last week’s Tel Aviv] derby 5-0.”

The Greens’ Dolev Haziza also reflected on the victory.

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

“We won a very important game and we are very happy that we have another small step to take in order to say congratulations. Next week we have a big game where we can finish this story.”

In the capital city, meanwhile, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Petah Tikva played to an entertaining 2-2 draw as Liran Rotman scored a brace to ensure that the yellow-and-black would play in the Premier League next season.

Rotman opened the scoring in the third minute as the winger took advantage of a poor clearance pass to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

Yarden Cohen quickly equalized less than 10 minutes later for Petah Tikva, but Rotman scored from 15 meters out to put Yossi Abukasis’s team in front once again, 2-1.

However, Arad Bar nodded home the ball in the 59th minute for the equalizer to earn a split of the points at Teddy Stadium.

“This was a great game,” Abukasis noted. “We had some fantastic minutes, but we were also a bit irresponsible on the two goals we conceded. We reached our goal and even though we were a bit tired at the end I knew a draw was enough.”

“I am proud as to how we are playing and it’s great to be with the guys” Petah Tikva coach Omer Golan said. “We are creating chances, but we are still having issues. We have a critical week ahead when we get ready to play Hapoel Jerusalem and it won’t be simple.”

Up in the Galilee, Bnei Sakhnin shocked Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 on a 95th-minute goal by Guy Melamed to keep their chances alive for a European qualification spot.

“I think this was one of our best wins this season considering the squad that we had available” Sakhnin coach Haim Silvas said. “We played well, with all of our hearts with the support of our incredible fans. We have been training hard all season and we are fighting for a spot in Europe. This was a heroic game today.”

“This was tough after having won the derby by a 5-0 score,” Maccabi coach Mladen Krstajic said. “We played against a team that didn’t want to play and they wasted time. We controlled the game and we had five very good chances and we had to score. But if you can’t score you have to keep a 0-0 result.”

By the Carmel Mountain, Hapoel Jerusalem blanked Hapoel Haifa 2-0 thanks to a pair of second-half goals to keep its survival hopes alive and well with the victory.

William Agada gave Ziv Arie’s team the lead in the 52nd minute while Eduardo Guerrero scored the insurance goal in the box to take the vital three points.

“We need two more wins and I am not thinking of anything else,” Arie said. “We recorded a super-important victory. Next week against Petah Tikva will be a war and we have to win. We have not played well up until now and if we don’t do what we need to over the next couple of games we will be in trouble.”

Meanwhile, Hapoel Hadera defeated Hapoel Nof Hagalil 2-0 as Steven Alfred scored early and Shoval Gozlan scored late to take the win up in the Galilee.

The loss keeps Shay Barda’s squad below the red line in the relegation zone with just two matches remaining.

“We went through a tough time and we knew that we needed the win,” Hadera coach Menachem Koretzky noted. “We have a number of young players who have yet to experience good results and it’s important for the club to finish off the season well.”

“We failed,” a disappointed Barda began. “We did everything that we could over the course of the week, but nothing worked. I will look at what happened as we did not play well. We had chances but couldn’t score, and in the second half I went for it all.”

Elsewhere, Maccabi Netanya blasted Hapoel Beersheba 3-0 as Patrick Twumasi scored a brace in the win.

After a goalless first half, an active Twumasi broke the deadlock as he nodded home his first goal in the 52nd minute while he doubled the advantage with a gorgeous strike from outside of the box a half-hour later to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Parfait Guiagon polished off the victory with a goal deep into injury time to wrap up the win and the three points.

“I want to congratulate every player and fan,” Netanya bench boss Benny Lam said. “We didn’t play well in the first half, but in the second we gave it our all and played quite the game. We played through our wingbacks and also our substitutes gave us plenty as well to take this win, credit to the guys who gave quite the performance.”

By the port city, Ironi Kiryat Shmona defeated Ashdod SC 3-1 to continue on its fine run in the relegation playoffs.

Muhammad Shaker gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute, but Gal Katabi drew the hosts even a few minutes later to head into the break all tied up at 1-1.

However, Itamar Shviro and Guy Ben Lulu each found the goal in the second half for Slobodan Drapic’s Kiryat Shmona side to snatch all the points.

“The players are all thrilled,” Drapic began. “They are always happy when they come to train and this is the result. We have a lot of youngsters who want to just play hard and they are doing just that.”