Maccabi paints Haifa green with 2-0 win

Rafaelov, Dvalishvili grab goals in derby to send Levy’s men back top of table.

Haifa Derby 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Haifa Derby 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa maintained its stranglehold over its cross-town rival Hapoel Haifa on Monday night, winning 2-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium to return to the top of the Premier League standings and keep Hapoel without a league derby win since 2001.
After an eventless first half, the Greens clinched the win after the break thanks to goals from Lior Rafaelov (60) and Vladimir Dvalishvili (85) and moved two points clear of second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv, with four matches to be played until the start of the championship playoffs.
“We knew it would be a tight and difficult match,” Maccabi coach Elisha Levy said. “In the first half we dominated the possession, but didn’t reach many scoring opportunities. We were much better offensively in the second half after Dvalishvili came on as a substitute and we deserved to win the match.”
Levy is optimistic regarding his team’s chances of remaining in first place until the end of the season.
“We are in a good position both confidence wise and physically, and as we draw nearer to the end of the season we will play better and have a bigger chance to win the title,” Levy said.
The loss leaves Hapoel two points back of sixth-placed Bnei Yehuda and a place in the championship playoffs, but coach Nitzan Shirazi had no complaints about Monday’s result.
“Maccabi was the better team tonight and its depth decided the match,” he said.
Both teams seemed more than content with a goalless deadlock in the first half.
Neither side created much, leaving both goalkeepers with very little work.
Hapoel stopper Tvrtko Kale had to be alert to stop Rafaelov’s attempt four minutes from the break and there were unhappy faces among both sets of supporters after an eventless first 45 minutes.
Levy sent in Dvalishvili at the start of the second half in the hope of awakening his team from its slumber and Maccabi was far more dangerous after the interval.
Tomer Hemed came centimeters from giving the Greens the lead 11 minutes into the second half, turning and smashing his shot against the upright, with Dvalishvili failing to control the rebound.
Four minutes later, Haifa got the breakthrough.
Hemed sent through Rafaelov and the midfielder rolled the ball past Kale to the delight of the visiting contingent.
Hapoel committed more players forward after falling behind, but it created little to nothing and Dvalishvili wrapped up the win five minutes from time.
Arik Benado crossed the ball into the box and the Georgian’s accurate volley ensured Maccabi returned to first position in the table.
“There was only one team on the pitch tonight,” Rafaelov said. “We may not have created many chances, but we controlled the possession.
“There has only been one team in this city for the past three decades.”