Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv primed for tantalizing basketball showdown

A loss would see the Greens fall six points behind the reigning champion after just three matches.

Maccabi Tel Aviv player Shawn James 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv player Shawn James 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After experiencing disappointing nights in the Europa League, Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv turn their focus back to the local scene when they meet at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Monday night.
Haifa registered 20 attempts at goal in its Europa group opener versus AZ Alkmaar last Thursday, but found the target with only two of them and ended the night with nothing to show for its efforts after Johann Gudmundsson gave the Dutch side a 1-0 victory with a 70th-minute goal.
Maccabi Tel Aviv at least picked up a point after drawing 0-0 with APOEL Nicosia, but the yellow-and-blue was no less frustrated at the end of the game after Barak Itzhaki missed a stoppage-time penalty that would have surely secured a win.
With Haifa also losing 3-2 at Ashdod SC in its most recent league match three weeks ago, it enters Monday’s showdown in danger of dropping to a third consecutive defeat.
A loss would see the Greens fall six points behind the reigning champion after just three matches, and Haifa coach Arik Benado is desperate to avoid such an early blow to his team’s title chances.
“The matches with Maccabi Tel Aviv are always intriguing,” said Benado.
“Tel Aviv is the champion and one of our rivals for the title. We had plenty of time to forget about the defeat to AZ. This match is especially important to us because we dropped points against Ashdod.”
Tel Aviv has gotten its title defense off to a perfect start so far, but required a Rade Prica stoppage-time goal to defeat Bnei Yehuda before registering yet another lackluster display versus APOEL.
Tel Aviv hasn’t beaten the Greens in Haifa since May 2004, but coach Paulo Sousa believes there is no reason that barren streak shouldn’t end on Monday.
“I respect every opponent, but this club’s mentality is to win every game,” said Sousa.
“Haifa has started the season well, but if we play the way we know we will have an advantage.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv finally claimed its first league victory of the season on Sunday, beating Maccabi Petah Tikva 3-1 at Bloomfield Stadium.
Star midfielder Gili Vermut started his first match for Hapoel since December 2012, but the hosts didn’t net the breakthrough until Petah Tikva found itself down to 10 men.
Ivorian Zito was sent off three minutes from the break after being shown his second yellow card and Roei Gordana gave Hapoel the lead three minutes later after Petah Tikva’s defense failed to clear a corner.
The Reds effectively clinched the win six minutes into the second half when Itay Shechter ended his scoring drought and Bryan Gerzicich scored Hapoel’s third in the 68th minute before Emmanuel Ogude (76) netted a consolation goal for Petah Tikva, which dropped to a third straight defeat.
In other news, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon fired coach Rafi Cohen on Sunday after the team began the season with three straight defeats.
Ramat Hasharon, which was the surprise package of last season, ending the campaign in sixth place, lost 3-1 to newlypromoted Hapoel Ra’anana on Saturday and has already conceded a league-high nine goals this season.
Cohen claimed on Sunday that he wasn’t given a fair chance to succeed due to the club’s financial struggles and poor management, adding that his bosses lacked his patience.
Youth team coach Haim Shabo has taken charge of the team on an interim basis.Tipsarevic said in a courtside interview after being mobbed by the rest of Serbia’s squad.
“See you right here in November in the final, in another epic encounter against the Czechs,” he added.
Serbia beat the Czech Republic 3-2 in the 2010 semifinal in Belgrade before losing the 2012 quarter-finals 4-1 away.