Kiryat Shmona solidifies first-place hold

Northerners hold on to edge Mac TA 2-1; one-point deduction decided on for TA brawl.

Ironi Kiryat Shmona players celebrate memorable 2-1 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona players celebrate memorable 2-1 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona proved it is a true Premier League title contender on Monday night, making a resounding statement with a 2-1 victory over two-time defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Kiryat Shmona opened a five-point gap at the top of the standings over second- placed Hapoel Beersheba, with Maccabi a further point back after being deducted a point earlier Monday following the abandonment of the Tel Aviv derby.
Kiryat Shmona got off to a blinding start, with Rodgers Kola putting the hosts in front with his header after just 47 seconds. Maccabi had its chances to equalize and dominated the second half. However, Roei Kehat doubled Kiryat Shmona’s lead in the 81st minute and Eran Zahavi’s penalty in the 90th minute was little consolation for Maccabi.
“We have only played nine matches, which means there are three-quarters of the season left to play,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar. “We are very pleased with the way we are playing and a six point lead is a nice lead. There are three good teams fighting for the championship together with Beersheba. We are looking good and have opened a promising lead, but let’s wait a little longer before we make any statements regarding the championship.”
Maccabi coach Pako Ayesteran was understandably disappointed after seeing his team drop to its second loss of the season.
“We controlled the game in the second half and had chances but we were not clinical in front of goal and we lost the game,” he explained. “We deserved more in the second half, but we are our own worst enemy. If we don’t do things well in the end we can be beaten and that is what happened today.”
Carlos Garcia’s failure to clear the danger cost Maccabi within the first minute, with Kola sending a looping header over the head of goalkeeper Barak Levy. Rade Prica squandered a superb opportunity to equalize after just five minutes, with Zahavi also hitting the crossbar five minutes from the interval.
Maccabi had 68 percent of the possession in the first half, but registered just one shot on target. The visitors were even more dominant after the break, but Kehat secured all three points for Kiryat Shmona.
Meanwhile, Maccabi received some good news earlier in the day after the Israel Football Association High Court announced that it is reducing both the yellow-and-blue’s and Hapoel Tel Aviv’s punishments for the abandonment of the derby earlier this month.
However, the three-man panel still handed both teams harsh sentences.
Maccabi and Hapoel were deducted one point each for the unruliness of their fans, will have to host three home matches away from Bloomfield Stadium and will not have a chance to replay the derby, with the result of the encounter being declared as a 0-0 draw from which neither team will receive a point.
The disciplinary court deducted two points from the teams two weeks ago, while also ruling that the result of the match will be a 0-0 draw from which neither club will receive a point and that the stands from which the fans burst onto the pitch will be closed for four matches.
However, after hearing the clubs’ arguments in last week’s appeal, the High Court decided to suspend the sentence until it announced its only slightly less harsher final decision on Monday.
“We are still disappointed by the outcome of the appeal,” said Maccabi’s CEO Martin Bain, who added that hosting games away from Bloomfield will cost the club approximately NIS 500,000.
“The commentary by the High Court regarding Eran Zahavi’s dismissal, where they clarified his actions could not be questioned, as well as highlighting that the IFA prosecutor was in fact wrong in his original approach, is welcomed.
“While we have been commended in verbal plaudits for our work against anti-social behavior and our approach to safety and security at our own home games, this has not been reflected which sadly only further reduce the club’s resources in this area.”