Maccabi Haifa defeated Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-0 in the Israel Premier League on a pair of second-half goals to keep the Greens atop of the table.
Tjaron Chery opened the scoring in the 65th minute when the midfielder scored from just outside of the box with a left-footed scorcher, while Dolev Haziza found the back of the goal from just in front as he added Haifa’s second which wrapped up the contest.
Immediately following the game, Kiryat Shmona head coach Nir Berkovic was relieved of his duties and was replaced by Slobodan Drapic.
“When you haven’t won in some time and we haven’t played well it was important to get back onto the winning track which is what we did. It was tough but we did it. We had some good minutes and we were able to control the ball well and we were able to accomplish what we set out to do.”Barak Bachar
“When you haven’t won in some time and we haven’t played well it was important to get back onto the winning track which is what we did,” Haifa bench boss Barak Bachar said. “It was tough but we did it. We had some good minutes and we were able to control the ball well and we were able to accomplish what we set out to do.”
“Maccabi Haifa isn’t in our league and they are the best team in the country,” Berkovic said. “Next week the team will play against Hapoel Tel Aviv which is more of our league. The guys played hard and fought. There are young and hungry players on the team.”
Maccabi Netanya dominates Maccabi Tel Aviv
Meanwhile, Maccabi Netanya dominated Maccabi Tel Aviv to take a 2-1 win over the yellow-and-blue at the Netanya Stadium.
After a goalless first half, the diamond city side broke the deadlock with a 56th-minute goal by Liran Rotman thanks to an Aviv Avraham assist while Patrick Twumasi sent a 30-meter scorcher right by Maccabi ’keeper Daniel Peretz a half-hour later to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Eran Zahavi broke up the clean sheet in the 87th minute, but the lone goal was not enough as Netanya took the points.
“This was a disappointing game,” Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Aitor Karanka said. “That was especially true in the first half after we didn’t do the things we spoke about ahead of the game. Netanya’s chances came due to our errors and when they scored they began to defend tighter and it was difficult for us to come back.”
“We knew that we had a good squad and we believed in it,” Netanya coach Ron Kuzuk said. “We understood what we needed to do, and when you look at Maccabi Netanya you know that this is Maccabi Netanya no matter what color uniform we would be wearing. We controlled the pace of play, pressed high and things are coming together for us.”
Meanwhile, Beitar Jerusalem downed Ashdod SC 2-1 as two first-half goals helped the yellow-and-black move into prime position to punch its ticket to the championship playoffs.
Ion Nicolaescu scored his 14th goal of the campaign to go to the top of the league’s goal scoring leader chart and give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute.
A quarter-hour later, Tamir Adi – who just returned to Beitar during the winter transfer window – doubled the advantage just ahead of the break to take a commanding two-goal lead.
Ebenezer Mamatah broke up Portuguese ’keeper Miguel Silva’s clean sheet in the 90th minute, but the goal was too little, too late as Yossi Abukasis’s squad took the win and the three points.
“This was a super important win against a team that is also battling for a championship playoff spot,” Abukasis said following the game. “This was a tough match as we didn’t begin so well and we didn’t play our best in the second half, but the end result was good.”
Also, Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Jerusalem played to a goalless draw as each team took home a point in the southern capital.
“Any situation where you can take a point at Turner Stadium against Hapoel Beersheba is good,” Hapoel Jerusalem assistant coach Lior Zada said after he was on the sideline in place of the suspended Ziv Arie. “We were there the entire game and we played well and handled ourselves against a very good and aggressive team. This point was a good one.”
“We were missing a number of things in this game and we played against a tough team that played a very solid defense,” Hapoel Beersheba coach Elyaniv Barda commented. “We needed to be better and show more quality and finish our chances. We tried everything and used all of our offensive capabilities.”
By the Carmel mountain, Hapoel Haifa blanked Sektzia Ness Ziona 2-0 as Roni Levy’s squad scored a goal in each half to move into a championship playoff spot and take the three points.
On-loan defender Constantinos Soteriou headed home a corner kick in the 37th minute while second-half substitute Mohammed Kamara added the insurance goal for the Carmel Reds as they took the win.
“This was a game against a team that is fighting for their lives but from the get go we started well and I am happy that we scored in the first half and finished the game off in the second,” Haifa bench boss Roni Levy said. “There are a lot of good things to take from this game. We have a tough schedule coming up but we can’t look too far ahead with Beitar Jerusalem coming up first.”
Up in the Galilee, Bnei Sakhnin and Bnei Reineh played to a 1-1 draw as the sides split the points in an entertaining contest.
After a scoreless first half, Beram Kayal poked home the ball after Guy Melamed’s header was saved to give Sakhnin a 1-0 lead in the 58th minute. However, Ahmed Abed headed home the tying goal in second-half injury time to save a point for the relegation zone team as each squad captured a point for their efforts.
“There were plenty of missed chances in this game and a draw is like a loss for us,” a disappointed Sakhnin coach Kobi Refuah said after the match. “We had chances and then we couldn’t hold onto the ball at the end of the game. It’s unfortunate that we conceded when we did.”
Finally, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Hadera played to a dry goalless draw as the sides split the points at Bloomfield Stadium.
“We are having a tough time, a very tough time,” Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Haim Silvas began. “We had many chances in the first half and the opportunities that we had should have been good enough to win the game. It was clear that if we would have taken the lead we would have been set, but the ball just wouldn’t go in.”