Hapoel notches crucial Tel Aviv derby win

Hapoel Tel Aviv overcame recent form and a dominant Maccabi Tel Aviv to snatch a 1-0 victory in the derby.

HAPOEL TEL AVIV 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv overcame recent form and a dominant Maccabi Tel Aviv to snatch a 1-0 victory in the derby on Sunday night to close within three points of the league leader.
Hapoel had lost four straight matches in all competitions entering the showdown at Bloomfield Stadium and was second best for much of the night.
The yellow-and-blue was in complete control in the first half, with striker Eliran Atar failing to convert a penalty in the 41st minute.
Despite its dominance, Maccabi struggled to create clear cut chances and went down to 10 men three minutes into the second half following Carlos Garcia’s sending off.
Even then, Hapoel failed to get a foothold in the match, but it scored the winner in the 80th minute courtesy of Omer Damari’s penalty and clinched a precious victory, not before Atar’s miserable night was complete with a sending off for an intentional hand ball (90).
“We’ve had better matches in which we ended up losing,” admitted Hapoel coach Yossi Abuksis.
“But tonight we fought and won despite a mediocre performance. It is a good sign that we win a derby when we are in this situation.”
Maccabi coach Oscar Garcia was bitterly disappointed.
“We played really well and were better than Hapoel even with 10 and nine men,” the Spaniard said.
“They scored a penalty and we missed ours. That is the story of the match.”
Both teams were wary of committing too many players forward in the first half, resulting in a cagey match.
Maccabi was far more organized and controlled the possession with its short passing game, while Hapoel was content on soaking up the pressure and waiting for its chance to hit Maccabi on the break.
However, the yellow-and-blue foiled any such attempts and created the better chances in the first 45 minutes.
Atar made his first real mark on the match in the 13th minute when he beat his defender and had his curling effort saved by ‘keeper Apoula Edel.
Edel was well placed once more in the 31st minute when he easily collected Munas Dabour’s header, but his miss would quickly be forgotten after Maccabi was handed a penalty five minutes from the break.
Ze'ev Haimovitch completely mistimed his header and Gonzalo Garcia found himself with only Edel to beat.
Garcia squandered the golden opportunity, but Atar’s rebound was blocked by Haimovitch’s hand and referee Alon Yeffet pointed to the spot.
Atar stepped up looking to score his 10th goal in just nine league matches, but his powerful shot lacked accuracy and Edel saved a penalty for a second straight week.
The match took on an entirely different complexion three minutes into the second half when Yeffet sent off Maccabi’s Carlos Garcia, deeming that he denied the darting Damari a clear shot on goal.
Maccabi sat back after that and had little trouble containing Hapoel, with Atar even wasting a promising opportunity in the 70th minute.
However, Hapoel got the break it needed when Steve Gohouri brought down Roei Gordana in the box and Damari showed Atar how it is done and slotted in the penalty to set off wild red celebrations.