Cruyff brought in to turn around Mac TA

New sporting director watches yellow-and-blue draw at Ashdod; K8 dominated in Sakhnin.

New Maccabi Tel Aviv sporting director Jordi Cruyff (left (photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
New Maccabi Tel Aviv sporting director Jordi Cruyff (left
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will introduce Jordi Cruyff as its new sporting director on Sunday after the former Dutch international saw first hand on Saturday the magnitude of the task he faces with the yellow-and-blue next season.
Maccabi continued a depressing campaign with a 1-1 draw against 10-man Ashdod SC, missing a chance to make up lost ground in the battle for European qualification.
Rodgers Kola gave Ashdod the lead in the 18th minute after another defensive mistake by Maccabi, before Munas Dabbur equalized seven minutes from the break.
Ofer Verta left the hosts with 10-men 10 minutes from time, but it was Ashdod which came closer to taking all three points, with Kola having a goal correctly disallowed for offside in the third minute of stoppage time.
“I am honored by the interest and the confidence shown to me by the club,” said Cruyff, 38, son of former Dutch great Johan.
“Maccabi is a special club with a great tradition and I am convinced that with hard work and the right decisions we will develop something that the club and the fans will all be proud of.”
The ex-Manchester United and Barcelona forward will be joining Maccabi from Cypriot club AEK Larnaca where he has worked over the past two years, helping the club become the first Cypriot side to reach the Europa League group stages.
Cruyff’s first task will be to name a new coach, with caretaker Nir Levine guiding the side since Moti Ivanir was sacked in December.
Ran Ben-Shimon is the current favorite to take charge of the team for next season after guiding Ironi Kiryat Shmona to a stunning championship, but falling out with owner Izzy Sheratzky following his refusal to sign a contract extension.
Kiryat Shmona’s first match since clinching the championship was a humbling experience on Saturday, with the northerners being trounced 5-0 at Bnei Sakhnin.
Kostadin Hazurov (2, 66), Maharan Radi (47, 80) and Ohad Kadusi (86) scored for Sakhnin, which severely punished Kiryat Shmona for a lax performance.
Sakhnin moved up to fifth with the win and is just three points behind Maccabi Netanya, which climbed to second place with a 1-0 victory over Maccabi Haifa.
Hen Ezra scored the only goal of the match in the 79th minute, giving Netanya its fifth win in six matches.
Maccabi Haifa dropped to fourth with the loss, while Hapoel Tel Aviv fell one place to third after drawing 3-3 with Bnei Yehuda in front of empty stands at Bloomfield Stadium.
Bnei Yehuda seemed to be cruising to a memorable win, holding a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes to play thanks to goals from Dino Ndlovo (11), Nenad Marinkovic (34) and Oz Raly (61), which looked to have rendered Shay Abutbul’s accurate free kick in the 45th minute as meaningless.
However, Elroei Cohen (81) and Salim Toama (83) ensured Tel Aviv salvaged a point to keep the battle for a Europa League berth extremely tight.
Hapoel Haifa moved eight points clear of the relegation zone on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Hapoel Rishon Lezion courtesy of goals from Ran Abukarat (63) and Yuval Avidor (75).
However, Haifa could be dragged back into the relegation battle by the Israel Football Association’s High Court on Sunday, with Maccabi Petah Tikva’s appeal against its three-point deduction to be heard at IFA headquarters in Ramat Gan.
Petah Tikva also has a game in hand, hosting 13th-placed Hapoel Beersheba on Monday.
Betar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Acre on Sunday, going for a sixth-straight win which will take it tied on points with Hapoel Ramat Hasharon in ninth place.
Ramat Hasharon beat Hapoel Petah Tikva 2-1 on Saturday with goals from Ben Ben-Shushan (78) and Baruch Dego (82) canceling out Or Fishbein’s (63) opener.