Maccabi Tel Aviv closes in on league title

Bnei Yehuda blanks Mac Haifa, Beersheba edges Netanya in Championship Playoffs • Beitar draws Hapoel Haifa

HAPOEL TEL AVIV defender Idan Cohen (right) celebrates with teammate Claudemir after scoring his team’s fifth goal in the 84th minute of the Reds’ 5-1 rout of Ashdod SC in Israel Premier League Relegation Playoffs action (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
HAPOEL TEL AVIV defender Idan Cohen (right) celebrates with teammate Claudemir after scoring his team’s fifth goal in the 84th minute of the Reds’ 5-1 rout of Ashdod SC in Israel Premier League Relegation Playoffs action
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv moved to within one victory of clinching the Israel Premier League championship after defeating Hapoel Hadera 2-0 at the Netanya Stadium over the weekend.
Second-half goals by Avi Rikan and Aaron Schoenfeld, with Yonatan Cohen picking up a pair of assists, helped Maccabi open up the Championship Playoff round on the right foot, while also making a bit of Israeli soccer history in the process. The yellow-and-blue was the first team to take advantage of the new VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee) technology as the system helped determine that Hadera’s George Fochive should be sent off with red card right before halftime after committing a foul on Rikan.
The aforementioned Rikan then went on to score Maccabi’s first goal of the game in the 48th minute.
American-born Schoenfeld found the back of the goal to double the lead in the 84th minute with an insurance marker to wrap up the contest.
Next match, Maccabi will be able to secure the league title with a home victory over Maccabi Haifa, however that will be two weeks away as this coming weekend will feature Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Maccabi coach Vladimir Ivic summed up the victory immediately following the game.
“This was an important win. We didn’t play our best football but we took the three points. We deserved the victory and were the better team. We still have to improve. Over the last few matches we haven’t showed what we have wanted to.”
Meanwhile, Bnei Yehuda surprised Maccabi Haifa 2-0 at Sammy Ofer Stadium, sending Marko Balbul’s team to its first loss in 12 league games.
Jakub Sylvestr scored a brace, with the first goal coming off a header in the 24th minute thanks to a Dolev Haziza corner kick. Things turned from bad to worse for the Carmel Greens when VAR came into play in the 41st minute.
The Virtual Assistant Referee determined that Ernest Mabouka should be sent off for a foul in the box and a penalty was awarded to Bnei Yehuda, with Sylvestr duly converting the spot kick for a 2-0 lead which held up for the balance of the contest.
Also, Hapoel Beersheba defeated Maccabi Netanya 1-0 as Miguel Vitor scored in his first game back since returning from an injury. The central defender, who has been an integral part of the club’s success over the past few years, scored off a Maor Melikson corner kick in the 58th minute to secure the three points for his squad.
The loss was Netanya’s first after having gone undefeated in its last 12 games across all competitions.
In the Relegation Playoffs, Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa played to a dull goalless draw at Sammy Ofer Stadium as Nissan Yehezkel manned the capital city squad’s sidelines due to head coach Nir Klinger having had a medical procedure a few days earlier that will most probably keep him out for the rest of the season.
Hapoel Ra’anana and Bnei Sahknin drew 2-2 at Ramat Gan Stadium as the sides split the points in an entertaining and dramatic battle.
Menchem Koretzky’s Ra’anana controlled the pace of play early on as Kayes Ganem beat Sakhnin ’keeper Muhamed Kandil in the 22nd minute for a 1-0 lead.
The visitors found the equalizer in the 55th minute on a Shlomi Azulay penalty after Yarden Cohen pulled down Ihab Genaim in the box, and then Sakhnin the lead 14 minutes later thanks to Muhamed Calibat, who slammed home a Mahran Radi corner kick.
However, Ra’anana wasn’t down and out and drew even in the 81st minute when Yoav Tomer scored into the far corner of the Sakhnin goal, allowing each squad to take home a hard earned point.
Maccabi Petah Tikva slipped by Kiryat Shmona 1-0 as Armando Cooper scored an 84th-minute goal to help his side triumph and take the three points.
Hapoel Tel Aviv dumped Ashdod 5-1, taking advantage of an extra man for the majority of the game.
After Issoumaila Lingane was booked with a straight red card in the 23rd minute following a reckless tackle on Nir Lax, the Reds poured on the offense. Nerijus Valksis scored his first goal upon his return to the Israel Premier League just before the break, which was then followed up by second-half strikes from Ahmed Abed, Ramzi Sfouri, Claudemir and Idan Cohen.
Ashdod pulled a goal back in the 87th minute via Romain Habran, but it was too little, too late as Koby Refuah’s squad collected the three points and the victory.