Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Haifa battle to draw

Cruyff disappointed as yellow-and-blue fails to gain ground; Ra’anana blanks Ashdod; Beitar hosts Beersheba.

Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Eliran Atar (16) Hapoel Haifa’s Radu Ginsari (right) battle for the ball in Premier League action at Haifa Stadium. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Eliran Atar (16) Hapoel Haifa’s Radu Ginsari (right) battle for the ball in Premier League action at Haifa Stadium.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv hoped to kickstart its Premier League campaign on Sunday night, but instead it ended yet another match deeply frustrated, drawing 2-2 with Hapoel Haifa on the road.
Maccabi squandered an opportunity to move tied on points with Haifa and Hapoel Beersheba in first place in the standings, coming back from behind to take the lead in Haifa, only to concede an equalizer.
Alon Turgeman netted the opener for Haifa on 33 minutes, but Maccabi needed just two minutes to respond, with Avi Rikan leveling the score with a bullet from 20 meters out.
Eliran Atar gave the yellow-and-blue the lead with a superb free kick in the 45th minute, but Eitan Tibi gifted the hosts a penalty when he pulled down Turgeman and Hanan Maman equalized from the spot 10 minutes into the second half.
Both teams had chances to decide the encounter, with Haifa on the back foot in the closing minutes, playing with 10 men from the 85th minute following Nisso Kapiloto’s sending off.
Haifa remained in first place with 24 points, with Maccabi three points back.
Hapoel Beersheba, which has 23 points, can climb up to first place with a win at Beitar Jerusalem on Monday.
“If you are 2-1 up at halftime you have to win this game,” said disgruntled Maccabi coach Jordi Cruyff. “It was a stupid penalty to give away. We brought them back into the game instead of killing it and making it 3-1.”
Haifa coach Nir Klinger was also frustrated.
“I’m really disappointed,” said Klinger. “We played well and our tactics worked and I’m upset we didn’t convert our chances.”
Earlier Sunday, Hapoel Ra’anana climbed off the bottom of the standings with a 1-0 win at Ashdod SC, which dropped to last place.
Despite playing with 10 men from the 44th minute following Shimon Abuhazira’s sending off, Ra’anana netted the winner in the 67th minute through a Tomer Swisa penalty after a contentious refereeing decision.
On Monday, Beersheba is targeting its sixth straight league win, hoping to bounce back from the 1-0 loss at Lugano on Thursday which ended the team’s hopes of qualifying for the Europa League round-of-32.
Beitar, which is just three points back of Beersheba, suffered a 3-2 defeat to Bnei Yehuda in its last match over three weeks ago.
Eliezer Spiegel dies at age 95
One of the forefathers of Israeli soccer, Eliezer Spiegel, passed away on Sunday. He was 95. Spiegel was born in Petah Tikva in 1922 and played for Maccabi Petah Tikva for most of his career.
In 1944, Spiegel was arrested as a suspected member of the Etzel and was sent to an internment camp in Eritrea where he stayed until June 1946.
Upon his release, he rejoined Maccabi Petah Tikva, playing for the team until his retirement in 1957.
Spiegel, whose son Giora is regarded as one of the greatest players and coaches in Israeli soccer history, began his coaching career with Maccabi Petah Tikva in 1955, acting as player-coach.
His greatest success as a coach came at Hakoah Ramat Gan, with which he won the championship in 1972/73 and the State Cup in 1971.