Maccabi Haifa suffers setback vs Hapoel Jerusalem

Greens surrender first place with surprising defeat in the capital • Maccabi Tel Aviv routs Beitar.

 HAPOEL JERUSALEM (in red) earned perhaps its biggest victory since being promoted last year, beating reigning Israeli champion Maccabi Haifa 3-0 at Teddy Stadium (photo credit: BERNEY ARDOV)
HAPOEL JERUSALEM (in red) earned perhaps its biggest victory since being promoted last year, beating reigning Israeli champion Maccabi Haifa 3-0 at Teddy Stadium
(photo credit: BERNEY ARDOV)

Hapoel Jerusalem stunned defending back-to-back Israel Premier League champion Maccabi Haifa 3-0 on Sunday night as Ofek Bitton’s first-half brace put the capital city Reds in control to take the surprise victory at Teddy Stadium.

Bitton got Jerusalem on the board early as he scored from in close in the 22nd minute. He added his second of the game off Jordan Botaka’s corner kick for a 2-0 lead at the break.

Ziv Arie’s squad added a third marker as Goni Naor sent William Togui a fantastic through ball, which the striker buried behind a helpless Josh Cohen to wrap up the shocking victory.

“We have been playing well from the start of the season and our mindset has been very good,” Arie explained.

“We have been playing well from the start of the season and our mindset has been very good.”

Ziv Arie

“There were minutes in the game that we could have played even better than we did. We will keep working hard and the table is really irrelevant right now. I am the same Ziv Arie as last season where I will only sum up how we did at the end of the campaign.”

Haifa coach Barak Bachar notes his team’s busy schedule as a mitigating factor in the result.

“Unfortunately, we were still in Champions League mode,” Bachar said. “We wanted to go five-for-five in the league ahead of the international break and we knew that if we didn’t come into the game properly we would be punished. That is what exactly happened. We saw right from the get-go that it wasn’t going to be our game. I didn’t prepare the team well enough.”

Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv blanked Beitar Jerusalem 4-0 as starlet Oscar Glouch scored a pair of goals in the dominant win at Bloomfield Stadium.

Beitar gave the yellow-and-blue fits for the first 38 minutes as Vladen Ivic’s squad couldn’t break through the capital city defense. However, that all changed when Gaby Kanichowsky broke the ice as he took a Glouch pass to give Maccabi a 1-0 lead.

The hosts doubled the advantage just ahead of the break when Glouch made his way through the Beitar defense and scored into the far corner.

Eran Zahavi added a penalty goal in the 83rd minute for Maccabi, while Glouch scored his second of the game a few minutes later to wrap up the win that moved the yellow-and-blue into first place ahead of the international break.“It may have been 4-0, but until the first goal it was difficult to break through their defensive line,” Ivic commented after the victory. “We know that Beitar is having some tough times, but we wish them luck and I am sure the next time they will be better.”

“There’s not much to take from this game,” Beitar coach Yossi Abukasis began. “Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beersheba aren’t in our league, they are in a league of their own. But that doesn’t mean we should look like we did for many minutes in this game. We had some chances in the second half, but then there was the penalty and the game was over at 4-0."

Hapoel Beersheba slipped by Bnei Sakhnin 1-0

Meanwhile, Hapoel Beersheba slipped by Bnei Sakhnin 1-0 as Rotem Hatuel’s late goal was all that the southern Reds needed to take the maximum points and the win.

“It was a tough game, but we were able to create a lot of chances to score,” said Beersheba bench boss Elyaniv Barda. “I am very content that we have also not conceded a goal in some time. We have played eight contests in less than a month, which has not been easy, but the players all came into the game today with the right mindset and focus. The win is super important for us.”

Also, Sektzia Ness Ziona downed struggling Hapoel Tel Aviv 4-3 in a barnburner of a matchup that saw Almog Buzaglo bag a brace at Moshava Stadium in Petah Tikva.

Pablo Gonzalez gave the Reds a 1-0 lead when he headed home Yahav Gorfinkel’s cross in the 20th minute, but an Edi Gotlieb own-goal 12 minutes later drew the hosts even at 1-1.

That’s when the scoring fun began, with a quartet of goals by halftime.

Buzgalo took advantage of an Or Roizman through-ball and Gonzalez scored his second of the game. But just as the break beckoned, Omer Senior stabbed the ball into the back of the Ness Ziona goal to give Kobi Refuah’s team a 3-2 lead.

Buzagalo evened the contest in the 59th minute when he scored off a give-and-go between Roizman and Ori Magbo, while 20 minutes later Levan Kutalia scored into an empty goal to give Ness Ziona the lead for good.

Less than 24 hours after the game, Refuah was relieved of his duties and after a brief search for a new coach, Slobodan Drapic was given the job on Monday.

Almost prophetically, Refuah pretty much predicted his own ouster after the loss.“It’s legitimate that there are thoughts as to what my future with the team will be. This is my responsibility as I am the one who puts the lineups on the pitch.”

Maccabi Bnei Reineh and Ashdod SC drew 1-1

Up north, Maccabi Bnei Reineh and Ashdod SC drew 1-1 to split the points up at Green Stadium in the Galil.After a goalless first half, Shlomi Azulay had a chance to give the port city the lead, but his 50th-minute penalty was saved by Yoav Gerafi.

Ashdod took advantage of its ’keeper’s heroics to grab the lead five minutes later via a Nenad Cvetkovic spot kick. However, Azulay found redemption in the 72nd minute when he put home a Russian Barsky corner kick to earn a point.

“We had victory in our hands,” said a thoroughly disappointed Ashdod coach Ran Ben Shimon. “We talked all week about how important it is to take three points in this game after our terrific outing against Maccabi Tel Aviv. While the players came with the right attitude, we just kept missing the goal.”

At Sammy Ofer Stadium, Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Netanya played to a disappointing scoreless draw to each take a point.

“We had situations where we needed to score,” Netanya coach Benny Lam said. “I am disappointed that the game ended 0-0 and that is not how I like to play.”

Finally, Hapoel Hadera and Ironi Kiryat Shmona drew 1-1 in an entertaining battle to split the points.Muhamed Shaker gave the visiting northerners a second-half lead, but Niv Gutlieb found the back of the goal after Hadera was reduced to 10 men just minutes earlier to earn a point for their efforts.

“You need to know how to take a point, but the goal is to always play solid soccer,” Hadera coach Asaf Nimni said. “We didn’t take advantage of our chances and Kiryat Shmona knew what to do. I am happy that my players showed character and reacted well when we were down so I’ve got to give them credit for that.”

“We have a mental problem and I can’t accept that,” an angry Kiryat Shmona bench boss Menachem Koretzky commented. “Every week we give out gifts to our opponents, which is unacceptable for a Premier League team to do. It’s like scoring an own goal.”