Israel Premier League regular season closes as teams are divided

Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hap Haifa sneak into championship playoffs.

 BEITAR JERUSALEM defender Uri Magbo celebrates after scoring a stoppage-time goal on Sunday night to give the yellow-and-black a 2-1 victory over Ashdod SC at Teddy Stadium in both club’s final regular-season match of the Israel Premier League. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
BEITAR JERUSALEM defender Uri Magbo celebrates after scoring a stoppage-time goal on Sunday night to give the yellow-and-black a 2-1 victory over Ashdod SC at Teddy Stadium in both club’s final regular-season match of the Israel Premier League.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The Israel Premier League regular season came to a dramatic end over the weekend as Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Haifa both notched Championship Playoff spots while Hapoel Hadera and Bnei Yehuda will play in the relegation playoff phase.
The Championship Playoffs will feature league leader Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Beersheba and Beitar Jerusalem, as well as Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Haifa.
Each team will play each other twice as the squads will have 10 games apiece to try to overtake the yellow-and-blue while vying for one of the four European qualification slots.
Hapoel Hadera, Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Kfar Saba, Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Ra’anana, Ness Ziona and Ashdod SC will battle against relegation. The bottom two clubs at the end of the campaign will be demoted to the Leumit League with the top two teams in the second division being promoted to the Premier League.
In Round 26 action, Hapoel Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Hadera 2-1 to punch its ticket to the Championship Playoffs for the first time since 2014. Omri Altman scored a brace for Nir Klinger’s squad to send the Reds’ fans into ecstasy as the club will have a chance to compete for a continental qualifying place.
Maor Bozaglo sent Altman a magnificent through-ball that the latter put behind Hadera ’keeper Austin Ejide in the 30th minute, but Eliel Peretz drew his squad even just at the stroke of halftime.
However, Altman placed a perfect chip shot over Ejide in the 94th minute to send his side into the top half of the league in style.
“This was the story of two separate halves from a mental standpoint,” said Klinger. “In the first half we played really well, but gave up an unnecessary goal. In the dressing room things didn’t look very good and everyone was upset. But we pulled it together and stayed the course to move on.”
Meanwhile, Hapoel Haifa and Bnei Yehuda played to a goalless draw as Haim Silvas’s Carmel Reds did what they needed to do in order to advance to the Championship Playoffs, while Elisha Levy’s quad was left on the outside looking in.
“I’m really happy,” exclaimed Silvas following the game. “This was an exclamation mark on a very tough season. We proved that we could get the result that we needed and I believe that we all deserved this, from the players, the fans and the owner who always believed in us.”
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv slipped by Maccabi Netanya 1-0 thanks to an Eylon Almog fourth-minute tally as the yellow-and-blue finished up the regular season in first place for the second straight season.
Next week, Vladimir Ivic’s squad will begin the Championship Playoffs with a home date against Hapoel Haifa while Netanya will feature in the relegation playoffs for the balance of the season.
“This was our worst performance of the season,” said an unhappy Ivic. “The good thing is that we took the three points, but for 75 minutes we didn’t look like Maccabi Tel Aviv. We weren’t good on defense and we played at a very low level. We all have to remember that there are still plenty of games left in the season.”
Also, Maccabi Haifa demolished Hapoel Beersheba 4-0 on Sunday night in a one-sided battle that was held at the Netanya Stadium due to a radius penalty on the Greens.
Nikita Rukavytsya slammed home a rebound in the 16th minute to put Marko Balbul’s squad on the scoreboard, while Tjaron Chery doubled the lead just two minutes later as he beat Beersheba ’keeper Ohad Levita from up close.
Yanic Wildschut finished off a terrific team effort in the 57th minute and Dolev Haziza put away a gorgeous through ball from Yarden Shua to cap off the victory.
“We played extremely well,” said Balbul “I’m very happy with our performance as it wasn’t an easy game against a very good team. Our fans deserved the show we gave them after traveling all the way to Netanya.”
Beitar Jerusalem needed a 92nd-minute strike from the unlikely source of Uri Magbo to defeat Ashdod 2-1.
The yellow-and-black opened the scoring with a seventh-minute beauty by Eliran Atar, but Dean David found the equalizer in the 51st minute to knot the score up at 1-1.
However, Magbo headed home the winner as Roni Levy’s squad took the points.
“This is a crazy game and sometimes the result doesn’t reflect what actually happened on the pitch,” said Levy. “We didn’t play well and I can’t understand how Ashdod isn’t in the Championship Playoffs. But we played better in the second half and we were able to take advantage of a tired Ashdod team during injury time.”
Hapoel Kfar Saba downed last-place Hapoel Ra’anana 3-0 at the Moshava Stadium.
Omer Fadida opened the scoring with a 39th-minute penalty, while he also played facilitator for Yahav Afriat a minute later to give the hosts a quick 2-0 lead ahead of halftime.
French striker Amadou Soukouna added a third goal in the 59th minute as newly appointed head coach Amir Turgeman won his debut match in fine fashion. Both teams will feature in the relegation playoffs and Ra’anana will need a miracle in order to remain in the first division.
Lastly, Ness Ziona slipped by Kiryat Shmona 1-0 as Raz Stain scored a brilliant free kick from 25 meters to give his team the three points.