Local Soccer: Hapoel Tel Aviv disappoints once again

Gutman's Reds booed by home crowd during 1-1 draw with Maccabi Petah Tikva; Maccabi Haifa expands squad.

shechter Hapoel TA soccer 248.88 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
shechter Hapoel TA soccer 248.88
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
It may be one of only two Israeli representatives left in European competition but Hapoel Tel Aviv is still searching for its first win of the Premier League season after drawing 1-1 with Maccabi Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday. After recording a goalless deadlock at Betar Jerusalem last week Hapoel was expected to claim all three points on Sunday, but the hosts were wasteful in front of goal and Petah Tikva fully deserved to leave with a point. Dedi Ben-Dayan gave Tel Aviv the lead in the 12th minute, but young Maccabi striker Tal Ben-Haim equalized in the 38th minute and, despite the fact that both sides reached plenty of chances in the remainder of the match, the entertaining tie ended in a draw. Hapoel coach Eli Gutman was pleased with his players' performance, but criticized the club's fans. "When I joined this club [in December 2007] we were in last position in the standings and the supporters never stopped cheering us," Gutman said. "Natcho made a couple of bad passes tonight and the fans began to boo him. We were excellent, but just struggled to score, and that is part of the game." Hapoel pushed forward from the start and soon took the lead. Samuel Yeboah should have done better with his shot from five meters out, but the hosts were ahead seconds later, with Ben-Dayan heading in the opener from the subsequent corner on 12 minutes. Just six minutes later Petah Tikva thought it had equalized when Macedonian Vanco Trajanov released a blistering effort from 20 meters out. However, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama showed once more why he is the best shotstopper in Israel, acrobatically keeping out Trajanov's shot in what was surely an early candidate for save of the season. Hapoel continued to control the proceedings in the subsequent minutes, with Yeboah coming closest to doubling the lead when he hit the crossbar with his shot from 20 meters out in the 31st minute. The final minutes of the first half would belong to the visitors, who grabbed the equalizer seven minutes before the break. Ben-Haim's shot took a fortunate deflection off Walid Badier and Enyeama was helpless. Hapoel came tantalizingly close to regaining the lead two minutes into the second half through Bibras Natcho, but the hosts could not maintain their dominance and 15 minutes later it was Maccabi which should have scored, when Tomislav Busic sent his shot straight at Enyeama despite being all alone in the box. Petah Tikva completely gave-up any attacking aspirations in the final minutes of the match, but despite dominating the possession could not convert its chances in front of goal. Gili Vermut and substitute Eran Zahavi reached golden opportunities, but it just wasn't Hapoel's day. In the 90th minute, matters would get worse for the hosts when Enyeama's only way to prevent Trajanov from scoring was by touching the ball with his hand outside the box. The Nigerian was sent-off, but Petah Tikva could not take advantage and the match ended in a draw. The second round of matches will be completed on Monday when Bnei Yehuda hosts Ahi Nazareth and Betar Jerusalem visitst Bnei Sakhnin. Maccabi Haifa expands squad Earlier Sunday, Maccabi Haifa completed the signing of defender Ali Ottman from Bnei Sakhnin. The 22-year-old was one of the best right-backs in Israel last season and will give coach Elisha Levy more options in defense after moving for approximately $500,000. Four of Haifa's and Tel Aviv's six opponents in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League, respectively, won their league matches over the weekend. Bayern Munich defeated defending champion Wolfsburg 3-0, with Arjen Robben scoring twice on his debut after completing his move from Real Madrid during the week. Juventus beat Roma 3-1 on the road, with Brazilian midfielder Diego scoring twice, while Bordeaux visited Marseille late Sunday, looking to maintain its perfect start to the season. Celtic, Hapoel's first opponent in the Europa League, won for the third time in three league matches on Sunday, defeating Hibernian 1-0. Hamburg went top of the Bundesliga with a 3-1 victory over Cologne on Sunday, while Rapid Vienna drew 1-1 with Austria Vienna in the local derby.