Maccabi Tel Aviv jumps Haifa atop table

Rout of Beitar Jerusalem catapults yellow-and-blue into 1st place as Greens upset by Petah Tikva.

MACCABI TEL AVIV players celebrate during their 4-1 victory over Beitar Jerusalem, a result that lifted the yellow-and-blue into first place for the first time this season. (photo credit: ARIEL SHALOM)
MACCABI TEL AVIV players celebrate during their 4-1 victory over Beitar Jerusalem, a result that lifted the yellow-and-blue into first place for the first time this season.
(photo credit: ARIEL SHALOM)
Maccabi Tel Aviv rolled over Beitar Jerusalem 4-1 on Monday night at Bloomfield to move into first place in the Israel Premier League standings.
Itay Schecter scored his first goal since September when he opened the scoring for the defending champion in the 28th minute.
Beitar’s Yarden Shua headed in an own-goal early on in the second half to double the yellow-and-blue’s lead, while Enric Saborit slotted home a penalty after a reckless foul by Beitar defender Tal Ben Haim took down Dor Peretz in the box.
Michael Ohana pulled a goal back for Jerusalem, but Avi Rikan sent a scorcher into the top left hand corner of Itamar Nitzan’s goal to wrap up the dominant victory for Maccabi.
“This was a great game for us and we played well, with some terrific goals,” said a content Maccabi coach Patrick van Leeuwen. “We deserved to win and we played our game, created chances to score and could have even scored another one or two goals.”
Shechter also reflected on the victory.
“There’s no question that this was an important win. I waited a long time for the goal I scored and I have worked so hard at training and I didn’t play as much. We have a lot of high-quality players and a large rotation. I’m very satisfied by the win and now we have to keep moving forward.”
Beitar coach Slobodan Drapic lamented his team’s effort.
“This isn’t what I expected from this game and from the season as a whole,” said Drapic. “We have three games left in the regular season and we have to get the maximum out of them as we only look up and not down. We have to be professionals until the end and get the most out of this season.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Petah Tikva shocked Maccabi Haifa 2-0 at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Guy Luzon’s squad controlled the tempo of the game from the get-go and took the lead in the second half on an Eyad Habshi own-goal in the 62nd minute. Petah Tikva added an insurance marker via Tai Baribo 20 minutes later to wrap up the three points.
“If there is one characteristic that we have this season it’s that we have no fear,” explained Luzon. “We have a good and dominant team that can control the game and that is why we won. The result should have even been 4-0 or 5-0. Huge credit to the players.”
Haifa coach Barak Bachar shared his perspective of the contest.
“We knew that this was going to be a tough game,” noted Bachar. “We also knew that we had to win and we couldn’t. The guys gave it their all, but we lost at the end of the day. We won four games in a row and now we lost, but there are many games left.”
In the desert, Hapoel Tel Aviv clipped Hapoel Beersheba 1-0 in the southern capital as Eyad Abu Oded scored the decisive goal to give Nir Klinger’s squad the three points and the win.
“This was a massive win for us,” said Klinger. “Our first half was spectacular as we controlled the play. The players deserve a ton of credit for their fighting spirit, but they have to be careful that they don’t get too haughty when they receive compliments because that can lower their tough mentality.”
Also, Maccabi Netanya slipped by Bnei Yehuda 1-0 on a second-half goal by Yuval Sadeh as the midfielder nodded home a Gaby Kanichowsky corner kick in the 60th minute to give Raymond Atteveld’s squad the triumph.
“I believe we played well as it’s tough to find open spaces against a team like this,” Atteveld said. “We knew how to play a team like this and we had chances so we deserved this result.”
Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abukasis said that his side’s offense has to match the defensive effort.
“In the first half we had a great chance to take the lead,” explained Abukasis. “But they scored from a set-piece and we have had a tough time with these types of goals. In general, our defense has been good, but on the offensive side the players aren’t pulling their weight.”
Elsewhere, Ironi Kiryat Shmona downed Bnei Sakhnin 2-0 at Doha Stadium in the Galilee to take the three points.
After a goalless first half Eugene Ansah broke the ice in the 54th minute with a header, while he began the play on Ofir Mizrachi’s insurance marker to wrap up the victory.
“There’s nothing more important than a win,” said a satisfied Kiryat Shmona coach Kobi Refuah. “We work towards that goal and the players can celebrate as they deserve it. We’ve continued to improve and this was the most crucial victory of our season to date as we try to get into the championship playoffs.”
Sakhnin coach Sharon Mimer took a positive approach despite his team’s defeat.
“We played well, but the difference between this game and our last one against Beitar was that the ball just didn’t go onto the goal,” explained Mimer. “Kiryat Shmona didn’t have many chances, but they made us pay for the ones that they did have.”
Ashdod SC and Hapoel Hadera played to a 1-1 draw at the port city as the sides split the points. Liran Rotman gave visiting Hadera a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute before the side was reduced to 10 men just ahead of the break when Dia Lababidi was issued his second yellow card.
Ran Ben Shimon’s squad pressed Hadera throughout the second half and finally broke through when Fahad Bayo found the back of the goal against Menachem Koretzky’s stingy defense as each team took a point.
“We had a number of players who couldn’t play and we had a lineup that had never really been together,” explained Ben Shimon. “I’m content with the result after not starting the game off well and we collected another point.”
“It’s disappointing to give up the tying goal in the 85th minute, but I can’t complain about our play,” said Koretzky. “It’s unfortunate that we lost out on the two points, but I am going to take a lot away from this game including how hard we fought, and for that I credit the guys.”
Hapoel Kfar Saba and Hapoel Haifa played to a dry goalless draw as the sides split the points.