Local Soccer: Second place still up for grabs

Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Tel Aviv are desperate to guarantee the perks that come with runners-up spot.

betar 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Only one seemingly unimportant matter remains unresolved ahead of the Premier Leagues final Matchday this weekend. Which team will finish the 2006/2007 season in second place? Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Tel Aviv have all assured themselves of European qualification, but are nevertheless still desperate to guarantee the perks that come with a second-place finish. A Maccabi Tel Aviv victory in the derby against Hapoel on Sunday will ensure that the yellow-and-blue end the season in second place and receive NIS 2.7 million and a bye from the first UEFA Cup qualifying round next season. But any other outcome in the derby at Bloomfield Stadium will open the door for Netanya. Netanya plays Betar Jerusalem at Winter Stadium on Saturday and will aim at the very least to increase the pressure on Mac TA with a victory against the newly crowned champions. The only way Hapoel Tel Aviv can leapfrog both Maccabi and Netanya into second place is if it defeats its bitter rivals on Sunday and Netanya loses on Saturday. Netanya, which was outraged that it plays its match one day before its rivals, approached the Israel Football Association with a request to move the Tel Aviv derby to Saturday. The IFA turned down Netanya's request, saying both Tel Aviv sides have a clear interest to win. "Once again promises made to us over the phone by the IFA have failed to materialize," the Netanya management said in a statement. "The team is considering approaching UEFA and FIFA to complain about the IFA's conduct. The IFA has put financial considerations ahead of fair play." Also on Saturday, Maccabi Haifa travels to Herzliya to face local side Maccabi. Bnei Yehuda hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva in Nitzan Shirazi's last match as Bnei Yehuda coach. Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan plays Ashdod SC in its final Premier League match before being relegated to the National League, and Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Kfar Saba.