Local soccer: Hapoel stuns Maccabi in TA derby

Premier League finale features three Hapoel goals in 13 minutes.

Hapoel TA 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hapoel TA 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The 2006/07 Premier League season ended in the sweetest possible way for Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night. Hapoel thumped arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-0 in the most hotly contested derby match in Israel. Hapoel was desperate for a win after losing and drawing the first two Tel Aviv derbies of the season, and, thanks to a remarkable 13-minute period in the first half, recorded the huge win. Goals from Yossi Abuksis, Salim Toama and Rami Duani in the 29th, 33rd and 42nd minutes, respectively, settled the match and ended Maccabi's hopes of a second-place finish. As a result, Maccabi, which finished the match with nine men, will need to start next season's UEFA Cup from the first qualifying round, while Maccabi Netanya gets a first-round bye for finishing second. Hapoel seemed the more likely to score first as it dictated the proceedings at the start of the match, and should have taken the lead in the 24th minute. Gili Vermot raced down the right flank and released an excellent cross which was squandered by Toama, who totally mis-hit his shot from five meters out. Five minutes later, however, the disappointment of the fans in red turned into jubilation thanks to a fortunate deflection. Abuksis, who may have been playing his last match before retirement, struck a free kick from 20 meters that took a wicked deflection off the Maccabi wall and made its way past Maccabi's helpless keeper, Tvrtko Kale. Just four minutes later, with Maccabi still reeling from the opener, Hapoel scored a spectacular second goal. Toama more than made up for his early miss with a stunning 20-meter free kick that curled perfectly into the top right corner of Kale's goal. Maccabi pushed forward in search of a goal and almost scored in the 38th minute from an Avi Nimni free kick. However, three minutes before halftime, it was Hapoel that scored the third goal of the match. Dani Bonder's looping pass was turned in by defender Duani, who perfectly shot a left-footed volley. Maccabi seized control of the match after the break and almost scored within the first minute of the second half. Yossi Shivhon was left unmarked on the edge of Hapoel's box, but the midfielder struck a poor left-footed shot that was saved by Hapoel 'keeper Neil Abarbanel. In the 65th minute, Maccabi forward Moshe Biton registered one of the misses of the season. Biton's poor first shot was blocked by Abarbanel, but with the rebound falling to his feet and the 'keeper sprawled on the ground, it still seemed inevitable Maccabi would finally score. However, with an empty net begging, Biton's shot from five meters out sailed high above the goal. Three minutes before the final whistle, the capacity crowd at Bloomfield Stadium witnessed what is perhaps the most bizarre moment of the season. Maccabi substitute Kobi Musa brutally struck a Hapoel fan who had invaded the pitch and left the referee with no option but to show him a red card. Matters would only get worse for Maccabi in injury time, after Biton took out his frustration on Hapoel midfielder Tal Hen and was given his marching orders by the referee.