Beersheba hands Maccabi Tel Aviv 1st defeat in finale

Israel soccer campaign finishes in dramatic fashion • Coaching merry-go-round to dominate offseason

IN A stunning upset, Hapoel Beersheba (in red) defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 this week in both teams' final game of the 2019/20 Israel Premier League season, with the result marking the yellow-and-blue's lone loss of the campaign (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
IN A stunning upset, Hapoel Beersheba (in red) defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 this week in both teams' final game of the 2019/20 Israel Premier League season, with the result marking the yellow-and-blue's lone loss of the campaign
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
As the Israeli soccer season came to a close this week, the abbreviated offseason is already heating up as the coaching carousel is already in full gear among the top teams.
Who will stay and who will go as European qualification is less than five weeks away?
Either way, the blue-and-white soccer world is sure to produce plenty of excitement as the curtain came down on what was one of the oddest campaigns due to the coronavirus-induced hiatus and ensuing restrictions upon resumption.
In the final game, Hapoel Beersheba defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 to send the yellow-and-blue to its first and only loss of the season.
Vladimir Ivic’s squad had already wrapped up the championship a couple of weeks ago and looked to complete an unbeaten season in the coach’s last game, but it was not to be. Kayes Ganem scored in the second minute to give Yossi Abukasis’s squad an early advantage while Ganem then assisted on Oren Bitton’s goal 25 minutes later to give Beersheba a 2-0 lead that it would hold on to for the balance of the contest.
Although Maccabi fell in the last game of the season, the club can look back at the wonderful record coach Ivic helped it achieve over the two seasons he was in charge of the yellow-and-blue.
In each campaign the club lost only one league game while taking the title in both seasons. Ironically the two defeats came against teams that were coached by Abukasis – this campaign with Beersheba and last year when he was the Bnei Yehuda boss.
The big story, however, as the season finally came to a close after the unexpected break due to the coronavirus isn’t the fact that Maccabi won back-to-back titles, but the future of the two coaches who were pitted against one another.
Ivic stated earlier in the week that he will be leaving the club, but at this point doesn’t know what his plans are and may take some time off to rest up for his next challenge.
With the Maccabi job open, there have been surprisingly very few names being linked to the position. Owner Mitch Goldhar and his representative Jack Angelides will have to move quickly to name a replacement as the team will be back at training for the 2020/21 season by the end of the month as it prepares for Champions League qualification matches.
Chances are that Maccabi will name a foreign coach as it has done for the majority of the decade and that should be done sooner rather than later or else the yellow-and-blue will spend a third season in a row out of the European group stages.
Not only will there be a change on the sidelines for Maccabi, but also in personnel on the pitch. A number of players will be leaving the team as their contracts or loan deals will be up, including Enric Saborit, Jair Amador and Andre Geraldes, plus there may be players sold with Yonatan Cohen and Dan Glezer potentially being at the top of that list.
There are still many questions swirling around about the futures of Dor Micha and Omer Atzily due to the ongoing police investigation.
As for Abukasis, rumors are abound that he will leave Beersheba less than a year in the job (after having replaced Barak Bachar) and take the Israel National team post that was vacated by Andi Herzog a couple of weeks ago. The 49-year-old coach hasn’t yet hinted as to where his future may lie but it seems like he won’t continue with the Southern Reds due to owner Alona Barkat having left the team in April and with an uncertain financial situation going forward.
Meanwhile, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa ended their respective seasons as they played to a 2-2 draw at Teddy Stadium.
Tjaron Chery opened the scoring in the 13th minute for the Greens as he put home a Dolev Haziza cross from 15 meters to take a 1-0 lead.
Beitar Captain Idan Vered drew his squad even three minutes into the second half as the midfielder took a Shay Konstantin pass and beat Josh Cohen. Shlomi Azulay scored a free kick from 17 meters in the 65th minute to give the hosts the lead, but 13 minutes later Dolev Haziza made sure that the sides would split the points.
As with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba, the coaching carousel will make stops at both Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa.
Marko Balbul, who led the Greens over the past couple of years, announced that he will not be back as coach and less than 12 hours after the game, Bachar was named to take his place.
Jerusalem owner Moshe Hogeg, though, has a little bit of a challenge with his current coach Roni Levy. On one hand he would like to replace him, but on the other due to a clause in his contract stating that if Levy would guide the yellow-and-black to European competition an extension automatically kicks in, which is exactly what happened, which puts the owner in a bit of a predicament.
Chances are Levy will remain in his role, unless the Israel National Team committee comes calling for the coach to take over the reins of the blue-and-white. For Hogeg to let Levy go and bring in a new coach would be an expense that the owner just wouldn’t want to take on.
In the final game of the 2019/20 campaign, Hapoel Haifa beat Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-0 as Liran Sardel, Jakub Sylvestr and Ofir Mizrachi all scored for Haim Silvas’s squad to help it collect the three points.
Thankfully for both Nir Klinger and Silvas, they are slated to continue in their respective roles for the foreseeable future. But, of course, the Israeli merry-go-round never seems to stop and it wouldn’t surprise a soul if neither of these bench bosses make it to the end of their contracts.