Local Soccer: Mac TA shines in dramatic opening victory

Yeini scores in injury time to give Ben-Shimon's side 2-1 win over Bnei Yehuda.

Maccabi TA soccer 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi TA soccer 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The Israeli Premier League got off to a dramatic start on Saturday when new-look Maccabi Tel Aviv pulled out an injury time winner to defeat Bnei Yehuda 2-1 in front of 11,000 ecstatic fans at Bloomfield Stadium. Also Saturday Maccabi Haifa showed it has rebuilt its confidence over the summer, easily beating beat Ashdod SC 3-1 at Kiryat Eliezer in a match which saw Yaniv Katan score twice. Maccabi Tel Aviv had been in control for much of its game after Yossi Shivhon put the team in yellow and blue ahead with a close range strikers finish in the fifth minute. But as the clock ticked down the home side was finding it hard to confirm the win with a second goal, and was punished in the 90th minute when Argentinian summer signing Pedro Galvan grabbed an equalizer for Bnei Yehuda. Galvan received the ball on the left wing from substitute Asi Baldut, and scored with an excellent effort. But all was not over for the Tel Aviv team, now coached by Ran Ben-Shimon. Ben-Shimon had been booed by the crowd when he replaced Frenchman Jonothan Assous with Shiran Yeini in the 60th minute, but it was Yeini who came up with the goods two minutes into injury time and secured a much appreciated win for Maccabi. Just when it seemed his team would have to settle for a draw, Yeini turned in a pinpoint free kick taken by new Maccabi player Maor Buzaglo, prompting jubilious celebrations. "In the first half we played outstanding soccer, but we weren't able to score a second or third and the momentum began to slip away. But we knew we could get back into the game and it was a beautiful ending," Ben-Shimon told a post-match press conference. "It was an important to win our first game." In Haifa, Maccabi Haifa was the only team which looked like winning throughout the 90 minutes. Defender Dekel Keinan scored the first goal for the hosts after 18 minutes when he knocked in Gustavo Boccoli's weak shot from a few meters out. Elisha Levy's team doubled its lead seven minutes before halftime when South African striker Fentini was fouled in the box and Katan scored the penalty. Haifa goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch gave his team a scare when he scored a freak own-goal in the 58th minute by palming the ball in from a David Revivo corner kick. And a minute late Maccabi was down to 10 men when left back Roni Gafni was sent off for a foul on Lior Reuven. But Katan put things right 17 minutes before the end with a fine individual goal. The former West Ham United forward stunned Dele Aiyenugba in the Bnei Yehuda goal when he fired in a super shot from 40 meters out. The first round of top level Israeli soccer continues on Sunday when Maccabi Netanya visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on the back of a European defeat on Thursday. As well, the main match of the round takes place at Kiryat Eliezer as Bnei Sakhnin hosts last season's league and cup double winner Betar Jerusalem. While Sakhnin vs Betar clashes have unfortunately been characterized by the violence which has spilled over from the animosity between the two sets of supporters, a group of fans of both teams set a fine example for the communities on Friday when they played a friendly match against each other. The game, organized by non-profit organization Football State, took place at Sakhnin's Doha Stadium, which is not being used on Sunday due to refurbishment work being carried out on the stands. The match finished in a 5-5 draw, but everyone agreed both teams were the real winners after an historic event. It has been a difficult preseason for Betar, with owner Arkadi Gaydamak announcing that former coach Luis Fernandez would be joining the club in an advisory role after the embarrassing 5-0 defeat by Wisla Krakow in the Champions League, only to find out last week that Fernandez is unlikely to come due to prior media commitments. However, club captain David Amsalem was looking forward to another great season. "We the players know we have to work hard in order to succeed and become national champion again," he said in quotes released to the club's official Web site on Saturday. "Everyone knows how disappointed we were with our European experience but now is the time that we all need to fight as one towards our aim."