Electrifying start to Israel's Premier League season

Petah Tikva shocks Maccabi Tel Aviv in opener • Beersheba edges Netanya • Jerusalem tops Hapoel Haifa

MACCABI TEL AVIV players react in dismay while Maccabi Petah Tikva players celebrate in the background after scoring the game-winning goal in their surprising 2-1 victory over the defending champs in Sunday night’s season opener at Bloomfield Stadium. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
MACCABI TEL AVIV players react in dismay while Maccabi Petah Tikva players celebrate in the background after scoring the game-winning goal in their surprising 2-1 victory over the defending champs in Sunday night’s season opener at Bloomfield Stadium.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
As the Israel Premier League opened its season, Maccabi Petah Tikva stunned defending league champion Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-1 at Bloomfield Stadium over the weekend.
Guy Luzon’s youngsters fended off wave after wave of first-half attacks by the yellow-and-blue and scored a pair of second-half goals to take the thee points.
Yinon Eliyahu was left all alone in the box and beat Maccabi ’keeper Daniel Tenenbaum cleanly to give Petah Tikva a 1-0 lead in the 49th minute. Itay Shechter scored a header off a Yonatan Cohen free kick just outside the box to draw Giorgos Donis’s squad even in the 83rd minute, but just three minutes later Liel Abada took a perfect through-ball and put it into the goal to snatch the surprising win.
“We made the correct moves in the second half to get back into the game,” explained Luzon. “We have a young group of guys and some made their debuts in the Premier League in this win. Maccabi Tel Aviv is a very good team and we were able to defeat the best team in the league. There’s still plenty to work on but we’re pretty happy right now.”
“It’s a good lesson for us,” said a dejected Donis. “It’s important for every game to learn something. We created a lot of chances in the first half and we played badly in the second half. We didn’t deserve to take something from this game. After the first 35 minutes we gave a lot to the opposition.”
Meanwhile, Hapoel Beersheba held off Maccabi Netanya 3-2 at Teddy Stadium as the southern squad took the three points.
Josue continued his hot streak for Yossi Abukasis’s side after helping the team last week advance to the second round of the Europa League, as the Portuguese sensation opened the scoring in league play with a penalty strike in the 37th minute thanks to a handball in the box.
The hosts added to their lead in the 59th minute when Itamar Shviro put the ball past Dani Amos for a 2-0 advantage. Netanya’s Hen Ezra found a busy Gaby Kanichowski just outside of the area to cut the lead seven minutes later, but the lead was short lived as Sintayehu Sallalich scored to give Beersheba a two-goal advantage once again.
The match continued with end-to-end action and Ron Ashkenazi pulled Raymond Atteveld’s Netanya to just a one-goal deficit, but it was too-little-too-late as Abukasis’s Reds began the season with a victory.
“There’s plenty to look at from this game,” said Abukasis. “Not due to the desire of the players but how we didn’t play smart enough. Despite that, we picked up an important win, but there is much we have to improve upon, however, it’s better to do this after a victory.”
Elsewhere, Beitar Jerusalem squeaked by Hapoel Haifa 1-0 as Shay Konstantin headed in the late winner off a Uri Magbo cross.
The yellow-and-black entered the game with interim coach Yossi Mizrachi on the sidelines as the club crashed out of Europe, falling to Teuta in Albania 2-0 last week after coach Roni Levy was relieved of his duties and Sports Director Yossi Benayoun resigned.
However, the capital city side was able to keep a clean sheet and pick up the three points thanks to Konstantin’s goal just after a Haifa strike was erased due to an offside call.
“This game was far from being good and the only good thing is that we won,” said Mizrachi. “We went through a trauma this past week in one fell swoop. We have to be more aggressive and quicker on the pitch and I hope that the next coach will be able to do that.”
Also, Maccabi Haifa slipped Hapoel Hadera 2-1 as Nikita Rukavytsya, last season’s scoring leader bagged a first half brace for the Greens at the Netanya Stadium. Rukavytsya took a terrific through ball from Yuval Ashkenazi to give Barak Bachar’s team the lead in the seventh minute and added his second 20 minutes later, but was injured on the play forcing him to come out of the game.
Hadera’s Odah Marshall cut the lead before the end of the first half, though that’s as close as Sharon Mimer’s side would get as Haifa took the points.
Hapoel Kfar Saba shocked Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-1 at the Moshava Stadium as the Greens opened the new season with a win.
Luwagga Kizito was pulled down in the box by Raz Shlomo as Omer Fadida scored a penalty to give Alon Turgeman’s Kfar Saba a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute. However, Omri Altman drew Nir Klinger’s Reds even with a scorching free kick from right outside of the box. But an active Kizito moved gracefully into the box and beat Ernestas Setkus as the hosts took the points.
“We worked very hard this past month and a half and I feel very positive,” exclaimed an upbeat Turgeman. “We could have won this game even earlier, but we missed some good chances. All in all, the players did a good job but there is a long way to go and we have to work hard and continue to improve.”
Bnei Yehuda blanked Bnei Sakhnin 3-0 at Doha Stadium in what was a cruel return to the Premier League for the Galilee side.
Dor Jan opened the scoring for Elisha Levy’s squad when he scored on a counterattack in the 22nd minute. Shay Mazor doubled the advantage when he headed home a Roie Ben Shimon ball in the 53rd minute to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Amit Zenati wrapped up the victory when he beat Rami Hamadeh for the third goal of the game in the 70th minute to give Bnei Yehuda all the points.
“We ended up making a tough game into one that was fairly easy,” explained Levy following the win. “We were very organized and we were able to take advantage of Bnei Sakhnin with quality ball control and we controlled the entire game throughout the 90 minutes. This is very important especially in our first match of the season.”
Ironi Kiryat Shmona defeated Ashdod 2-0 in the port city thanks to a pair of second-half goals. Eugene Ansah broke the ice in the 68th minute as he put the ball past Roie Mishpati for a 1-0 lead while Lucio scored the insurance goal during injury time to hand Kobi Refuah’s northern squad the win.
“This wasn’t one of our greatest games,” said Refuah after the win. “Ashdod controlled the pace of play, but that was our plan. We knew that they would attack, but sometimes you have to come into the game with a tactical plan. We began the season on the right foot and I’m satisfied with the win.”