Maccabi Haifa has proven once again that it is the top team in Israeli soccer. Just ahead of facing Paris Saint-Germain in UEFA Champions League group play, Haifa moved into sole possession of the first place in the Israel Premier League after defeating Sektzia Ness Ziona 3-1 thanks to an Omer Atzily brace at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Atzily gave the Greens the lead in the 22nd minute, but Freddy Plumain scored his club’s first goal of the season just three minutes later to even up the game as the match headed into the second half all knotted up.
But it didn’t take long for Atzily to break the deadlock as he headed home the ball in the 52nd minute, while Tjaron Chery added an insurance marker soon thereafter from 25 meters to wrap up the win.
“We are in the midst of a very busy period and there are players who have not played with one another that much,” Haifa coach Barak Bachar explained. “Some things are going well while others still need some work. We didn’t play as a team enough and I didn’t like how we controlled the ball and we could have scored more, but I am not going to complain after a win.”
Wednesday will be the second time in as many months that PSG will be playing Israel after having won the French Cup back in August over Nantes at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.
The Ligue 1 leader will once again be with superstar and icon Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Sergio Ramos, along with Kylian Mbappe, as it will look to win its second continental game in a row after stopping Juventus 2-1 last week.
Qatari Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the head of the French club, is expected to lead the PSG delegation into Israel while PSG is treating this game with the highest level of importance and held its final training session and pre-match press conference on Tuesday in France instead of Sammy Ofer Stadium.
As for Haifa, it will try to record its first goal and points of the competition after falling to Benfica 2-0 in the first game. The game itself will be attended by over 30,000 supporters – with fans not being allowed to wear PSG jerseys in the Haifa fan section – along with a large presence of police and security personnel.
Haifa captain Neta Lavi looked at the club’s local situation while also playing in the Champions League.
“Going from playing in Europe to the league is not simple, but we are doing it while scoring goals and winning as well so that is great. We are trying our best to do the maximum we can in every match. We have a very good squad that has quality depth and I am happy that everyone is getting playing time as we keep winning.”
“Going from playing in Europe to the league is not simple, but we are doing it while scoring goals and winning as well so that is great. We are trying our best to do the maximum we can in every match. We have a very good squad that has quality depth and I am happy that everyone is getting playing time as we keep winning.”Haifa captain Neta Lavi
Meanwhile, in the Jerusalem derby, Hapoel slipped by Beitar 1-0 as Eloge Yao scored the lone goal of the game to paint the capital red.
With close to 20,000 fans in the Teddy Stadium stands on Monday night, Ziv Arie’s Hapoel got off to a quick start as Guy Badash sent a terrific through ball to Yao, who beat Beitar’s keeper Itamar Israeli for the lone goal of the match as the Reds secured the three points.
“Our fans waited so long for a derby win and I am very happy for them,” an emotional Arie said. “We have to keep going as this is only the fourth game of the season. After losing 3-0 last season I wanted to make sure that we would look better and I know that if we could keep our emotions in check that we could win the game. This was a very valuable victory."
“We started the game poorly and gave up an early goal,” Beitar coach Yossi Abukasis lamented. “Hapoel defended well and they packed their players in and we tried to break through but couldn’t. The team that was winning clamped down and we couldn’t do anything.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv traveled down to Ashdod and only came away with a 0-0 draw as both sides had issues finding the back of the goal all game long and earned a point apiece in the goalless contest.
The yellow-and-blue had a chance to take the lead early on when they were awarded a controversial penalty, but Eran Zahavi’s spot kick went flying over the bar as both goalkeepers chalked up a clean sheet.
“This was a tough pitch and I wasn’t surprised from Ashdod as they are a good team,” Maccabi coach Vladen Ivic said. “I knew they would play with many players behind the ball. We played well in the first half and could have scored two or three goals, but in the second half we weren’t creative enough and should have shot from outside of the box.”
Hapoel Beersheba downed Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-2 in a thriller that saw the visiting Southern Reds score a trio of second-half goals at Bloomfield Stadium.
Kayes Ganem scored from inside the box after a stellar individual effort to give Tel Aviv a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute. Astrit Selmani found the equalizer via a Dor Micha assist in the 60th minute, but El Yam Kancepolsky sent a scorcher into the Beersheba goal a minute later as Kobi Refuah’s team retook the lead 2-1.
However, in the 66th minute Magomed Suleymanov took care of a rebound in the box to draw Elyaniv Barda’s side even and then Eugene Ansah unleashed a stunner of a ball from just outside of the area to give Beerheva the lead for good.
“I’m super happy because this was a very important win,” Barda said following the game. “This was our sixth game in two weeks and that’s no small task. We came into an away game after two poor results and then we went down by a goal twice, but we never gave up and showed plenty of character. They deserve a lot of credit.”
Hapoel Hadera and Hapoel Haifa
Also, Hapoel Hadera and Hapoel Haifa played to a 1-1 draw as the two goals were both scored in the second half.Steven Alfred broke the deadlock in the 56th minute to give Hadera the lead, but 20 minutes later Liran Sardel found the back of the goal as each squad took home a point for their efforts.
Bnei Sakhnin hosted Maccabi Netanya to a dry goalless draw at Doha Stadium as the sides split the points.“We missed out with this draw,” a disappointed Haim Silvas commented. “This was an incredible battle between two very strong teams. I don’t think that the result reflected the game itself as we had so many chances and the ball just didn’t go in.”
Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Bnei Reineh
Up north, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Bnei Reineh drew 1-1 as the visitors earned their first point of the campaign after bringing in veteran coach Sharon Mimer to take over for Adham Hadiya.
Muhamed Shaker gave Kiryat Shmona a quick lead in the fourth minute, but veteran marksman Shlomi Azulay found the back of the goal in the 30th minute to draw even and the sides eventually split the points.