Clean sheets all around as leaders falter

Mac TA settles for nil-nil draw in Ashdod while host Mac Haifa holds Hap BS scoreless.

Haifa v. Hapoel Beersheba 370 (photo credit: Uzi Gal)
Haifa v. Hapoel Beersheba 370
(photo credit: Uzi Gal)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba dropped their first points of the Premier League season on Sunday night, only managing goalless deadlocks on their travels.
The reigning champion from Tel Aviv entered its match at Ashdod SC on the back of becoming the first team ever to begin a season with four straight wins without conceding a goal. The yellow-and-blue once more recorded a clean sheet, but failed to find the back of the net and was held to a 0-0 draw in Ashdod.
Beersheba was hoping to make a statement by picking up all three points against Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium. However, despite Dekel Keinan’s sending off in the 40th minute, the southerners failed to register their fifth straight win and were forced to settle for a 0-0 stalemate.
The draw was also not the result Haifa coach Arik Benado was hoping for, with the Greens now going winless in their last seven matches in all competitions, including their last four in local league action.
“This is not the situation we want to be in,” said Benado. “We wanted to win this match. We reached enough chances in the first half to win, but failed to convert them. The players showed their character and fought for the point. We will eventually reach the place we should be in.”
Haifa seized the initiative from the first whistle and Hen Ezra recorded its first shot on target after less than four minutes, firing straight at goalkeeper Austin Ejide.
The Nigerian stopper came to Beersheba’s rescue once more in the 30th minute, denying Ezra yet again to the frustration of the toothless hosts.
The match turned on its head in the 40th minute after an action packed sequence at both ends of the field.
It began with Shimon Abu Hazeira’s reckless miss from five meters out, with the misfiring striker only managing to rattle the crossbar with only the ’keeper to beat.
Beersheba immediately broke forward, and although Dovev Gabay’s initial shot was saved by goalkeeper Bojan Saranov, Maor Buzaglo’s rebound could only be denied by Keinan’s outstretched hand, resulting in a red card for the Haifa defender and a penalty for the visitors.
Elyaniv Barda confidently stepped up to take the spot kick, but he blasted his effort against the crossbar to the disappointment of the 2,000 Beersheba fans that made the long trip up north.
Despite playing with 10-men, it was Haifa which recorded the first chance of the second half, with Eyal Golasa testing Ejide 10 minutes after the break.
Beersheba came centimeters away from breaking the stalemate in the 79th minute, with Gal Erel sliding the ball through to Dutch striker Glynor Plet, only for the substitute to fire just above the crossbar.
In Ashdod, the hosts adopted a defensive formation in the hope of limiting Maccabi’s scoring opportunities.
Ashdod’s game plan worked, with neither team coming close to scoring in the first half.
Coach Paulo Sousa’s tactical changes at halftime made life slightly more difficult for Ashdod, with goalkeeper Ofir Marziano being called into action in the 63rd minute to keep out Maharan Radi’s free kick.
Marziano maintained the deadlock with a sensational save from Munas Dabbur’s header in the 72nd minute and Maccabi was held to a draw for the first time this season after Eran Zahavi failed to place his free kick on target deep into stoppage time.