Anti-climactic crown for Maccabi Haifa

Greens’ final game called off at Sakhnin • Beersheba, Mac TA draw • Beitar can’t hold late lead vs K8

The result of Monday night’s 1-1 draw between Maccabi Tel Aviv (in yellow) and Hapoel Beersheba (in red) clinched the Israel Premier League title for Maccabi Haifa  (photo credit: ARIEL SHALOM)
The result of Monday night’s 1-1 draw between Maccabi Tel Aviv (in yellow) and Hapoel Beersheba (in red) clinched the Israel Premier League title for Maccabi Haifa
(photo credit: ARIEL SHALOM)

Maccabi Haifa was looking forward to being officially crowned the 2021/22 season champion on the pitch at Bnei Sakhnin this past match day, however, there was not enough security personnel to handle the fans at the Moshava Stadium and the league was forced to postpone the contest.

The league administration and Sakhnin pointed fingers at one another passing on the blame as to how the mishap occurred just a little over an hour prior to kickoff.

Due to Hapoel Beersheba’s draw at Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Greens were able to celebrate their second league title in a row although they would have liked to have done so in front of their rabid supporters.

“We want to apologize to all of the fans, especially the Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Sakhnin supporters,” League chairman Erez Halfon said. “We take Sakhnin’s poor conduct seriously which caused the game to be canceled and we will take harsh measures against them.”

The team also put out a statement.

Teammates of the Israeli-Arab women soccer team, Sakhnin, perform warm-up drills before the game against Hapoel Betshan, in Sakhnin, Israel, April 27, 2006. (credit: MELANIE FIDLER/FLASH90)Teammates of the Israeli-Arab women soccer team, Sakhnin, perform warm-up drills before the game against Hapoel Betshan, in Sakhnin, Israel, April 27, 2006. (credit: MELANIE FIDLER/FLASH90)

“Since last Wednesday we saw that there were going to be issues because we couldn’t hold the game at our home stadium,” Sakhnin said in response. “It’s incumbent upon us as sportspeople to upkeep the values of the sport on the field of play.”

Meanwhile, 10-man Beersheba was able to squeeze out a 1-1 draw with Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.

Nikita Rukavytsya was issued a straight red card after a reckless tackle on Matan Baltaxa in the 15th minute, which led to Elyon Almog’s opening goal just at the stroke of halftime when he nodded the ball home off of a Brandley Kuwas pass.

But Miguel Vitor headed the ball into the corner of the yellow-and-blue goal in the 75th minute to earn his side a point.

“We deserved to be in the lead in the first half and we needed to maintain our pace in the second half,” Maccabi coach Mladen Krstajic explained. “We had chances but didn’t take advantage of them. We couldn’t do anything as they tried to play the game on their terms which is what they did. Everything was in our hands and we controlled the game, but we gave up an easy goal.”

“It wasn’t easy to play with just 10 men from early on,” Beersheba coach Elayaniv Barda said. “We have received many red and yellow cards this season and unfortunately we have had to deal with this on a regular basis.

Elsewhere, Beitar Jerusalem coughed up a two-goal lead late at home against Ironi Kiryat Shmona in an entertaining 3-3 draw at Teddy Stadium.

Gleofilo Hasselbaink scored his first of two goals in the 40th minute off of a Liran Rotman assist to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, but Itamar Shviro scored the equalizer right at the stroke of halftime to head into the break all knotted up at 1-1.

Niv Zrihen dribbled around a number of defenders to give Yossi Abukasis’s Jerusalem squad the lead in the 59th minute, and a quarter-hour later Hasselbaink recorded a brace to put Beitar up 3-1.

But Slobodan Drapic’s team didn’t give up as Mohammed Shaker cut the lead in the 93rd minute and Adrian Rochet scored from the penalty spot deep into second-half injury time after having been pulled down in the box to earn a split of the points.

“We weren’t smart and as focused near the end of the game,” said Abukasis. “It’s disappointing because we could have scored more, but we missed. The players did a great job and no one wanted to see this club relegated. I’m happy that we took the points when we needed to and played well. We wanted to stay in the Premier League and that’s what we did.”

“I told the guys that after such a season we couldn’t lose this game,” Drapic explained. “Now we can go into the offseason with our heads held high.”

Also, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Tel Aviv played to an entertaining goalless draw as two penalties were called off by the VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee) and the sides split the points at the Netanya Stadium.

“We were dominant,” Netanya coach Benny Lam stated. “We wanted to win this game and as a coach when I saw two penalties called off I was afraid we would be the one who would give up a goal. Hapoel Tel Aviv didn’t come to beat us and perhaps were looking ahead to the derby.”

“This wasn’t a very good game for us,” Hapoel coach Kobi Refuah said. “We [were] against an excellent team who are the best at pressing their opponents. We played the long ball as we knew what Netanya’s strong points are and they didn’t even have a quality chance all game long.”

Maccabi Petah Tikva downed Hapoel Hadera 4-3 in a goal fest at the Moshava Stadium.

The hosts scored a trio of goals in the first half as Lameck Banda, Eitan Azulay from the penalty spot and Arab Bar gave Omer Golan’s team a 3-0 lead at the break.

However, the visitors came back to cut the lead to 3-2 on goals by Afik Katan and Aviel Ben Hemo, before an Ion Nicolaescu scored to bump Petah Tikva’s lead back up to 4-2.

Maxim Plakushenko slotted home a penalty in injury time, but it was too little, too late as Petah Tikva snatched the win.

“I asked the players to keep the pride of the club and that’s what they did,” said Golan. “I told them to play for themselves and the club for the first time in three months with no pressure. The guys know how to play, but we fell apart in money time this season.”

Up north, Hapoel Nof Hagalil slipped by Hapoel Haifa 1-0 on a second-half goal by Omer Fadida to part ways with the top division with a win as it will play next season in the Leumit League.

Immediately following the game, Nir Klinger was named the new head coach of the Carmel Reds,

“I’m very happy to return to Haifa for my third term. The connection that I have with the club has bore some very nice fruit throughout the years and the goal is to repeat that.”

Finally, Hapoel Jerusalem blanked Ashdod SC 1-0 thanks to Guy Badash’s 87th-minute goal to hand the capital city Reds the three points at the port city.

“The guys did what they had to do,” Jerusalem bench boss Ziv Arie said. “We won the games that we needed to in order to stay in the Premier League. I believe that things will work out for me to stay at the club and I hope that next season we can challenge the top of the standings.”