Local Soccer: Maccabi Netanya to play in Europe

Reuven Atar's squad earns UEFA Cup spot with victory over Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan; Hapoel Tel Aviv routs Hapoel Petah Tikva.

maccabi netanya 88 (photo credit: )
maccabi netanya 88
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Netanya made club history by qualifying for next season's UEFA Cup with a 2-1 victory over Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan on Saturday night at "The Box." Reuven Atar's club, which is hoping for a third-place finish in the Premier League, sealed the fate of the game - and Hakoah's relegation back to the National League - with two first-half goals. Maccabi Herzliya, which was also battling relegation, produced an impressive 2-0 win over Ashdod SC in Matchday 32 to officially ensure another season in the top division. "I'm very happy with this achievement," said Netanya coach Atar. "My players have done a wonderful job and we deserve to be in the top half of the league standings. "The aim is to keep improving. [Owner] Daniel [Jammer] has done a lot for the club and we'll do our best not to disappoint him." "The league standings never lie," observed Ramat Gan coach Uri Malmilian. "I can't say that this comes as a surprise. We won some big games this season, but failed against bottom-of-the-standings teams. "I have to take responsibility for this disappointing failure, as I was the one who chose these players and managed this team." Recently-crowned champion Betar Jerusalem will be in action against Eli Cohen's Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday night at Bloomfield Stadium. Approximately 5,000 loyal Betar fans are expected to make their presence felt at the match, and the police will be looking to avoid any post-game disturbances. Betar coach Yossi Mizrahi has quite a few problems ahead of the fixture. Regular starters Shimon Gershon, Aviram Bruchian and Toto Tamuz will not be available due to nagging injuries. To make matters worse, Gal Alberman is suspended after collecting five yellow cards. Maccabi Netanya 2, Hakoah AmidarRamat Gan 1 "The Box" was painted yellow with Netanya fans eager to see another home victory. Atar's men came out strong and it took them just 19 minutes to get on the scoreboard. Veteran forward Ophir Haim did the damage for Netanya by scoring after a serious mix-up in the Ramat Gan defense. Ramat Gan then pushed forward looking for an equalizer, but Netanya struck yet again via a deadly counterattack. Ofer Shechter was the architect of the raid, as he took control of the ball and performed a slick dribble in midfield. The forward located teammate Amir Taga, who applied the finish to make it 2-0 in the 44th minute. Malmilian tried to turn the tide with a couple of attacking substitutions, which started to pay dividends. Ramat Gan took control of the midfield and started dictating tempo. Playmaker Manor Hassan pulled one back for the visitors with a close-range header in the 82nd minute. Ramat Gan played the final minutes with a sense of urgency, knowing that anything less than a win could mean relegation to the National League. However, a series of acrobatic saves by Netanya goalkeeper Liran Strauber foiled Ramat Gan's plans. Hapoel Tel Aviv 5,Hapoel Petah Tikva 1 Tel Aviv entered the match without key player Salim Toama, but had little trouble in finding the net. Baruch Dego opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a close-range finish, and Luciano De Bruno (30) and Yossi Abuksis (35) made it 3-0. Shimon Abu Hatzira pulled one back for Petah Tikva in the 44th minute. The second half was played in similar fashion and the State Cup holders kept punishing Petah Tikva's hapless defense. De Bruno scored his second goal of the game after heading in a Walid Badier cross in the 56th minute. Gili Vermot found the net in the 69th minute on a quick counterattack. "I don't want to talk about my personal issues with [Hapoel Tel Aviv's] management," said outgoing Tel Aviv coach Nir Levin. "I'm glad we played well today, despite the fatigue from the State Cup Final a few days ago. We must play every game with a serious approach, no matter who the rival is."