Maccabi Haifa took another step towards the top of the Israel Premier League table with a 3-1 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv on Sunday night.
The Reds grabbed the lead when Farley Rosa was pulled down in the box by Muhammed Abu Fani, handing Dan Einbinder a penalty which he duly converted.
However, Omer Atzii came right back with the equalizer as he went around Yoav Hoffmayster and unleashed a scorcher into the far corner in the 45th minute to see the sides head into the break all knotted up at 1-1.
Dean David gave the Greens the lead just two minutes into the second half while Atzili scored his second of the game with a 91st-minute penalty to wrap up the win.
“We wanted to get off to a strong start,” Haifa coach Barak Bachar began. “We wanted to raise the pace of play that we had against Berlin last Thursday, but we couldn’t get things off and running out of the gate. We were able to do so in the second half which I am happy about.”
“The minute before the first half ended and a minute into the first half did us in,” Hapoel coach Nir Klinger lamented. “This is was decided the game off of our mistakes. We played well and maybe could have done even more. We played as well as Haifa and the break didn’t hurt us but we are just missing some players.”
Up north, Hapoel Beersheba slipped by Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-1 as Ramzi Safuri scored the first goal and assisted on the second to help Roni Levy’s squad take the three points.
Safuri opened the scoring in the northern capital with a free kick strike in the 20th minute to give the visitors a 1-0 lead while Nikita Rukavytsya doubled the advantage right before the break. Kiryat Shmona’s new head coach Slobodan Drapic brought on Itamar Shviro to begin the second half and his move was rewarded as the former Beersheba man cut the lead in the 84th minute.
However, that was the closest Kiryat Shmona would get as Itay Ben Shabbat was sent off with a second yellow card three minutes later to seal the northerners’ fate.
“We began the game very well and we had created a number of chances and took a lead,” Levy said. “When they sent many players forward in the second half to try and get back into the game we needed to know how to kill it and get another goal. When you don’t do that, you create unnecessary pressure, and I didn’t like how we played in the second half which means we have plenty or more work to do.”
“We had a poor first half,” Drapic explained. “We weren’t able to get it together and we gave them way too much of the pitch to operate on. We had a better second half and we had some players who came off the bench who knew what to do.”
By the Carmel Mountain, Maccabi Tel Aviv downed Hapoel Haifa 3-1 thanks to a pair of Izuchukwu Anthony own-goals at Sammy Ofer Stadium to record three important points in the battle to move up the table after a very tough start to the season.
Brandley Kuwas lofted a corner kick into the box that gazed Luis Hernandez’s head and then went off of Anthony for the first of two own-goals to give Maccabi a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
Kuwas was once again at the center of attention when he sent a magnificent through-ball to Tal Ben Chaim, who gave Maccabi a 2-0 advantage early on in the second half.
Liran Sardel pulled a goal back to cut the lead to 2-1, but Anthony was up to his old tricks again as the ball went off his leg and into his own net off a Gaby Kanichowsky free kick for yet another own-goal as the yellow-and-blue wrapped up the win.
“Every point is important for us now,” Maccabi’s interim coach Barak Itzhaki said. “They surprised us by playing three central defenders, but we were able to overcome that and take three crucial points for us. We are still in a very critical period of time right now and we were on the rise but fell in Europe last week. However, we were able to come back from that.”
“I don’t think we gave Maccabi too much respect,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy began. “Maccabi didn’t have many chances in the first half, but neither did we, and in the second half when we made some changes Maccabi was able to grab the momentum.”
In the Galilee derby, Bnei Sakhnin downed Hapoel Nof Hagalil 2-1 as Sharon Mimer’s squad snatched the important points and the win.
Mufleh Shalata and Beram Kayal teamed up to get the ball to Ari Moura, who scored from in close to give visiting Sahknin a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.
Kevaughn Frater rifled home the equalizer just a few minutes later to draw even at 1-1. However, Guy Melamed found the winner in the 37th minute for Sakhnin as it held Nof Hagalil at bay for the second half to secure the win.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Netanya blanked visiting Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-0 in a wild affair.
Boris Enow was issued a straight red card after a brutally reckless foul on Lameck Banda, reducing Benny Lam’s squad to 10 men for the remaining 70 minutes. However, that didn’t stop Netanya from taking a 1-0 lead as Parfait Guiagon scored a scorcher from 20 meters out.
Igor Zlatanovic added an insurance marker from the penalty spot 10 minutes to capture the victory and leave Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon just shaking his head in disbelief at yet another loss.
“We were naive both on the defensive and offensive side of the game and even with an extra man for so many minutes we didn’t know what to do,” a disappointed Luzon said. “We were not good with the ball and without the ball and if you can’t do that you can’t win. Netanya was the better team.”
Elsewhere, Ashdod SC sunk Hapoel Jerusalem 1-0 thanks to a Kenny Saief penalty deep into second-half injury time to down a 10-man capital city squad and collect the three points.
“This were super important points and we showed a lot of character and some patience along the way,” winning coach Ran Ben Shimon said following the game. “This win will hopefully send us on our way at a critical time in our season.”
Also, Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Hadera played to a listless 0-0 draw at Teddy Stadium as the sides split the points.
“I am not happy with our performance,” Beitar coach Erwin Koeman explained. “We had more ball possession in the second half, but we couldn’t make that last pass. If the final pass is no good you can’t score. We were average. We have to get the players ready for the next game and have a better performance on Tuesday.”