Local Soccer: Mac Haifa comes back in thriller

Levy's Greens draw 2-2 with Hapoel Tel Aviv in dramatic encounter at Kiryat Eliezer.

Maccabi Haifa 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Hapoel Tel Aviv at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in a dramatic Premier League encounter on Monday night. After a dreary first 45 minutes the match burst into life in the second half, with Hapoel twice taking the lead. However the reds were ultimately unable to blow the title race open, allowing the hosts to equalize for a second time 11 minutes from the final whistle. The draw means Haifa maintains its seven-point margin from Hapoel and goes two points clear of second-placed Maccabi Netanya in the league standings. "I think a draw is a fair result," Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. "We showed a lot of character. This was a match we couldn't afford to lose." Hapoel coach Eli Gutman was also pleased with the final result. "I can't truthfully say we deserved more than a point from this match. I'm proud of my players," he said. Haifa was the more positive side at the start of the match, but it was Hapoel which almost took the lead on the break. Gili Vermot found space on the edge of the box and his powerful shot was only denied by Amir Edri's upright. That would prove to be Tel Aviv's only real chance of the timid first half, with Maccabi's best chance of the period coming eight minutes later. A Yaniv Katan free kick was met by Shai Maimon's head, but Hapoel 'keeper Vincent Enyeama was up to the task and Gustavo Boccoli's goal from the rebound was rightfully disallowed as offside. Five minutes into the second half Boccoli was centimeters away from scoring a legal goal, sending a header just wide of Enyeama's left post. Two minutes later, a John Culma mistake gifted the visitors the opener. The Colombian failed to clear the danger on the edge of the box, heading the ball into the path of Hapoel striker Maharan Lala, who beat Edri to give Tel Aviv the lead. With no other option, Maccabi began to send more and more players forward and got its reward in the 64th minute. Shlomi Arbeitman, who came on as a substitute just seven minutes earlier, seemed to be offside, but the flag stayed down and he slotted the ball beyond Enyeama from the edge of the box . In the 71st minute Katan was only denied by some desperate Hapoel defending and one minute later Douglas da Silva headed down the ball and substitute Ben Luz slid in to score the visiting team's second goal of the match. Hapoel failed to hold on to its lead once more, however, with Maimon equalizing in the 79th minute. The young defender powerfully headed Katan's free kick past Enyeama and prevented a second home defeat of the season for the hosts. Haifa almost snatched all three points in stoppage time when substitute Eyal Golasa lobbed the ball over Hapoel's Nigerian 'keeper, but was denied the winner by the crossbar.