Jerusalem holds Mac TA to scoreless draw

Mac Haifa blanks Netanya, Beersheba stunned by cellar-dweller Ra’anana • Hap TA edges Bnei Yehuda

THERE WERE few scoring chances last night when Maccabi Tel Aviv squared off against Beitar Jerusalem in Haifa, with the Premier League encounter ending 0-0. (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
THERE WERE few scoring chances last night when Maccabi Tel Aviv squared off against Beitar Jerusalem in Haifa, with the Premier League encounter ending 0-0.
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
Israel Premier League leader Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem played to a 0-0 draw at Sammy Ofer Stadium on Monday night to close out the Round 18 slate.
The contest was being held in Haifa due to a radius penalty imposed on Maccabi due to incidents which occurred at the last month’s Derby at Bloomfield Stadium.
Vladimir Ivic’s Tel Aviv squad looked to continue its fine form at the foot of the Carmel Mountain after last week’s dramatic victory at the same facility over Maccabi Haifa, while Roni Levy’s side came in undefeated in its last eight games, but drew 2-2 against Kiryat Shmona last week.
Each team created a chance to score in a goalless first half as Verdasca’s volley for Beitar off a corner went over the bar while Itay Shechter’s one-on-one opportunity was blocked by Beitar ’keeper Itamar Nitzan. 
The second half saw the squads pick up the pace with Maccabi’s Chico Ofoedu having the only quality attempt, resulting in a goal that was ruled to be offside as the sides split the points.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa easily disposed of Maccabi Netanya 2-0 thanks to a pair of second-half goals at the Netanya Stadium.
After a number of near misses by Tjaron Chery and Yuval Ashkenazi, the Greens took a 1-0 lead when the league’s leading scorer Nikita Rukavytsya added his 12th goal of the season when he found the back of Dani Amos’s goal with the help of Yanic Wildschut’s assist.
Marko Balbul’s squad added an insurance marker nine minutes later as Rukavytsya played facilitator in assisting on Ashkenazi’s strike to get the Greens back in the win column after falling to Maccabi Tel Aviv last week.
Haifa will now prepare to visit Uhm El Fahem in Israel State Cup round-of -16 action on Tuesday while Maccabi Netanya will host Hapoel Beersheba on Thursday.
“We come into every game with the goal of winning and to score as many goals as possible,” said a content Balbul following the game. “It wasn’t easy to get ready for this game after the tough loss last week, but we showed a lot of character against a very good club.”
Elsewhere, last-place Hapoel Ra’anana stunned Beersheba 2-1 at the Moshava Stadium as new southern side coach Yossi Abuksis lost in his debut behind the bench.
After a goalless first half, Karem Arshid beat Ohad Levita in the 52nd minute to give Niso Avitan’s Ra’anana a 1-0 lead. However, Ben Sahar drew Beersheba even a quarter-hour later as the striker scored his ninth goal of the campaign.
But Ra’anana captain Snir Shuker would have the last word as the second-half substitute took a magnificent through ball by Roy Levy and put it behind Levita to give his side all three points and send the visitors to their second loss in a row.
Beersheba will get ready for State Cup action on Thursday night against Netanya while Ra’anana will face Cinderella story Agudat Sport Ashdod on Wednesday at the Port City.
Avitan didn’t hide his happiness after the contest.
“I believe that after a long time without a victory, it’s important to bring back faith and confidence and that is what the players did. There is plenty to improve on and this is just the beginning.”
Abuksis looked back on his new club’s performance with perspective.
“I can’t complain about the battle and the desire that the players showed today. But it’s not often that a team will give up two goals on two mistakes, and that’s what we did.”
Also, Hapoel Tel Aviv defeated Bnei Yehuda 2-1 at Bloomfield Stadium to win its third game in a row, while remaining undefeated in its last five contests.
The Reds grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute as Omri Altman sent a pinpoint perfect corner to Raz Shlomo and the latter nodded the ball past the Bnei Yehuda ’keeper Emilias Zoubas. However, the advantage held up for only three minutes as Dor Jan also headed home a goal to draw Bnei Yehuda even at 1-1 by the break.
With each side looking for the winner, Nir Klinger’s squad found it when the Altman’s attempt inside the box trickled by Zoubas to give Hapoel the 2-1 victory.
The Reds will visit Bnei Sakhnin while Bnei Yehuda will host Hapoel Afula in State Cup play on Wednesday.
“This was a very important and difficult win,” Klinger said. “Bnei Yehuda gave us a pretty good fight, but we deserved the victory. We didn’t take our foot off of the gas and we made the correct substitutions when we needed to, which decided the game.”
Hapoel Haifa got back onto the winning track with a 1-0 home victory over upstart Ashdod SC. Sa’ar Fadida stole the ball in the midfield and unleashed a scorcher of a strike from just outside of the box which beat Roie Mishpati cleanly for the lone goal of the contest at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Haifa will now prepare for a home date against Kfar Kesem in State Cup play on Wednesday.
“This was a huge sigh of relief after a number of rough games,” said Hapoel Haifa coach Haim Silvas. “We could have scored a second marker, but we made our lives difficult. We have to continue to focus on our goals ahead.”
The goal-scorer, Fadida, was all smiles following the game.
“It’s a great feeling, but it wouldn’t have happened without my teammates,” he said. “Before the game, coach Silvas gave me a lot of confidence and told me what to do and thankfully I scored. I will give this team everything that I’ve got.”
Hapoel Hadera slipped by Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1-0 as Sharon Mimer’s team moved into fifth place. Mohammad Abu Fani headed home a perfect Hagay Goldenberg cross as the midfielder has now scored a goal in three straight weeks.
Hapoel Kfar Saba needed a ninth-minute Benjamin Kuku header to defeat Ness Tziona 1-0 as the Greens leapfrogged over their rivals and out of the relegation zone.