After a very slow start in Israel Premier League play, Maccabi Tel Aviv dismissed head coach Patrick van Leeuwen following the club’s shocking 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Ashdod SC on Monday night in front of over 17,000 vocal fans.
The yellow-and-blue has struggled mightily in domestic play as it sits in 12th place, just one point above the relegation zone, with two wins, four losses and a draw in seven matches so far this campaign as Barak Itzhaki will take over the reins on an interim basis.
Van Leeuwen had been given a two-year contract extension over the summer after having taken over the club from Georgios Donis early on during the 2020/21 season and guided Maccabi to a strong finish winning the State Cup and falling just a few points off the top of table. This season, however, has been anything but successful thus far in the Israeli league.
The Dutchman who arrived back in 2016 to become the club’s Performance Director did a masterful job turning around the youth department and then moved into the coach’s role. In fact, the team’s results in Europe this season have been excellent as Maccabi leads its UEFA Conference League group and just came off a 5-0 victory over HJK in Helsinki, Finland.
But that apparently wasn’t enough as it had been reported in multiple outlets that there was a disconnect between the players and Van Leeuwen. With owner Mitch Goldhar’s representative Jack Angelides accompanying the team to Finland and attending the match in Tel Aviv, the official notice that the club would part ways with the 52-year-old coach came just two hours after Monday’s loss.
“Patrick has made a tremendous contribution to Maccabi Tel Aviv FC since his arrival as head of the youth academy and performance director,” Goldhar told Maccabi’s official website. “Since he joined Maccabi more than five years ago, Patrick has exhibited a strong work ethic and loyalty to the club, for which I and Maccabi owe a debt of gratitude. I wish Patrick all the best for the future.”
As for Monday’s game itself, Maccabi captain Sheran Yeini was sent off for a reckless tackle on Fahad Bayo in the 20th minute and Naor Sabag took full advantage of the extra man to give visiting Ashdod a 1-0 lead.
Or Inbrum doubled the advantage in the 82nd minute to enable Ran Ben Shimon’s team to take the three points and the victory to move to within one point of Maccabi.
“Even when it was 11-on-11 we still played better than Maccabi Tel Aviv,” Ben Shimon began. “Our players have trained well, which was why we won this game. We came to play today and we needed the points to move closer to getting out of the relegation zone.
“It’s a tough night,” said Van Leeuwen even prior to being relieved of his duties. “We got a red card after several minutes in the game and that changed our plan and influenced the game. After the international game you need to stay in the game, which we could have after it was 1-0. We had to move forward.”
Meanwhile, up north, Maccabi Haifa defeated Maccabi Netanya 2-0 to continue to move up in the standings.
Dolev Haziza opened the scoring early for the Greens when he latched onto an Omer Atzily pass in the fifth minute to beat Dani Amos for a 1-0 lead. Atzily then took a Godsway Donyoh through-ball 35 minutes later and scored to wrap up the win before the break.
“I was not happy with how we played in the second half and we allowed Netanya to get close to cutting our lead to 2-1,” Haifa coach Barak Bachar lamented after his team picked up the win as he focused on where his side needed to improve.
“Exhaustion is just an excuse after our European game and I am leaving this game with a bad feeling despite the victory.”
Elsewhere, Hapoel Tel Aviv blanked Hapoel Hadera 3-0 to welcome back head coach Nir Klinger is style after having served a lengthy suspension for his actions at last year’s State Cup final that kept him away from the sidelines.
The loss for Menachem Koretzky’s club was its first of the campaign as the Reds continued their fine play since the beginning of the season.
“It was important for me to get back into the action,” Klinger explained following the victory. “I want to thank my staff, who did a fantastic job while I was gone. We prepared very well for this game and we knew how to play against them. We had a tough time in the first half but then we made some corrections and did what we needed to.”
Down south, Hapoel Beersheba defeated Hapoel Jerusalem 3-1 at Turner Stadium in the desert capital as Roni Levy’s squad continued its fine play in dominant fashion.
Nikita Rukavytsya scored his first goal of the season with his new club when he nodded home an early strike to give the hosts a quick 1-0 lead in the sixth minute.
Ramzi Safuri took care of a Rukavytsya pass 25 minutes later to bump up the lead to 2-0 while Tomer Yosefi added the third goal midway in the second half to take a commanding lead.
Idan Shemesh pulled a late goal back for Ziv Arie’s side, but it was too little, too late as Beersheba pocketed the 3-points.
“We always strive to be better, but we have a lot of new players and it takes time,” Levy said. “We want to get good results and I believe as the time goes by we will be even better. Nikita is a very important player for us and it’s great to see all of our forwards scoring.”
In the capital, Beitar Jerusalem slipped by Hapoel Haifa 2-1 as Tamir Adi’s second strike stood up for Erwin Koeman’s team to take the victory.
Yarden Shua and Alon Turgeman traded goals in the first half, with the latter coming in stoppage time.
But Haifa’s Itay Boganim was sent off with a second yellow card in the 55th minute, reducing the Carmel Reds to 10 men, which handed the advantage to Beitar for the balance of the half.
Tamir Adi quickly took matters into his own hands and three minutes later scored to give Beitar the three points at home.
“I believe that this win really took some pressure off of us, as well as the fans,” Koeman said following the victory. “These were three very important points. There were both good and bad things in this game, but we were patient, controlled the ball and created chances when we had the numerical advantage.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Petah Tikva demolished Hapoel Nof HaGalil 4-0 at the Moshava Stadium as Muhammed Awaad scored a pair of second-half penalties to help the hosts to the victory.
Lameck Banda scored a terrific goal off a throw-in play in the 16th minute to give Guy Luzon’s squad a 1-0 lead which was duplicated early in the second half when James Adeniyi doubled the score. Awaad then took care of two late spot kicks to polish off a 4-0 win to grab the points.
In the Galilee, Ironi Kiryat Shmona smashed Bnei Sakhnin 3-0 as Amir Nussbaum’s squad notched a superb away win.
Morgan Ferrier headed home the first goal in the 29th minute while Itamar Shviro added a second strike just 11 seconds into the second half after Yadin Lugasi stole the ball to send the Israeli striker on his way. Lugasi then found the back of the goal himself to give the northern squad a tidy 3-0 victory.