Maccabi Tel Aviv got back onto the winning track with a 3-1 victory over Ironi Kiryat Shmona over the weekend as interim head coach Barak Itzhaki notched his first win in the northern capital.
The yellow-and-blue came into the game after having dismissed bench boss Patrick van Leeuwen due to poor domestic league results that left the club just one point above the relegation zone after seven matches.
With Itzhaki – who has been serving as the sports director – on the sidelines, Maccabi began the game slowly going down 1-0 on a 28th-minute goal by Itamar Shviro for the hosts.
However, Brandley Kuwas unleashed a stunner from just 12 meters out to draw even three minutes into first-half injury time. The visitors then grabbed the lead in the second half after Luis Hernandes pounded the ball home off a corner kick, and substitute Osama Khalaila added the third strike late in the game to take the three points.
“Coaching is new to me, but I’ll get used to it and serve in this capacity as long as needed,” began Itzhaki. “In soccer you’ve always got to have emotions. We didn’t think we would begin the league the way we did and we will have to work hard and be united. We will still have to improve how we start games, but we were able to figure out how to get out of the hole we started out with today.”
Down south, Ashdod SC and Maccabi Haifa played to an entertaining 2-2 draw at the port city to each earn a point.
The Greens got on the board first as their corner kick went off Ashdod’s Gil Cohen and behind his own ’keeper, Yoav Gerafi, for an early 1-0 lead.
Kenny Saief found the equalizer via a header off a Montari Kamaheni ball to draw Ashdod even at 1-1 in the 28th minute.
Barak Bachar’s squad retook the lead in the 63rd minute when Tjaron Chery pounced on a rebound, but Or Inbrun’s penalty tally six minutes later once again tied up the game as each team earned a deserved point.
“We led the game twice, but this is a hard place to play,” Bachar said. “We did everything we could to win the game, however Ashdod is a quality side despite having not had many chances. Still, when you are ahead twice in Ashdod you’ve got to find a way to win the game.”
Ashdod coach Ran Ben Shimon put the result in perspective.
“We could have won and we could have lost,” he explained. “We did a lot of great things this game and Kenny Saief has become one of our main players. As each game goes by, I feel that we are getting a better understanding of how we want to play and we are continuing to improve.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Beersheba drew 1-1 as both goals were scored just a minute apart in the second half to split the points at the Netanya Stadium.
After a goalless first half that saw the hosts lose Aviv Avraham to a straight red card due to a reckless tackle, Ramzi Safuri broke the deadlock in the 65th minute as he curled a free kick behind Dani Amos and into the Netanya goal for a 1-0 lead.
However, just a minute later the hosts pulled the goal back as Aboubacar Doumbia cleaned up a rebound to earn his team a point playing with a man down.
“The 12th man was certainly the fans today,” Netanya coach Benny Lam began. “I don’t like to celebrate a draw, but this one was like a win and the players deserve a ton of credit. Beersheba is a very strong team and when we went down to 10 men I brought on attacking players to see what we could do. Congrats to the entire squad.”
In the nation’s capital, Hapoel Jerusalem won its first game of the season as the Reds downed Maccabi Petah Tikva 1-0, with Idan Shemesh scoring in the 88th minute at Teddy Stadium to give the hosts the three points.
After a goalless first half, Shemesh – who had come in as a substitute – took a Guy Badash through-ball and put it behind the Petah Tikva ’keeper Arik Yanko to take the victory.
“I didn’t know we would win this game, but I did know that if we did then we would officially be welcomed to the Premier League,” said an excited Jerusalem coach Ziv Arie. “We have played some good games and we knew that with a young roster and a low budget there would need to be patience.”
Up north, Hapoel Haifa blanked Hapoel Hadera 3-0 as the Carmel Reds received markers by three different goal-scorers to take the three points.
Alon Turgeman opened the scoring in the 18th minute while Liran Sardel doubled the advantage just 10 minutes later. Alen Ozbolt added a third goal for Elisha Levy’s team to take the victory in front of its home fans at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
“I’m very content with the result and the effort that the players put in,” Levy said following the game. “We played like a team that deservedly is in the top half of the table. We controlled the game from the beginning to the end and it was great that the fans enjoyed the game.”
Also, Bnei Sakhnin shocked Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-0 at Bloomfield Stadium to take the victory for embattled coach Sharon Mimer.
Beram Kayal opened the scoring with a penalty in the 32nd minute while Moti Barshazki and Ibrahima Conte scored second-half injury-time goals to notch the important early-season win.
“We played with our emotions today and the guys showed that they can play with any team in the league,” Mimer said. “I am very proud and I want to make sure the club knows how to appreciate these types of wins. As long as there is quiet in Sakhnin we can do some pretty good things.”