Maccabi Tel Aviv triumphant in raucous derby

Yellow-and-blue snaps four-year winless streak with tenacious 1-0 victory.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's ELIRAN ATAR 150 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's ELIRAN ATAR 150
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After four years of repeated humiliation at the hands of its arch-rival, Maccabi Tel Aviv finally got the better of Hapoel Tel Aviv in a Premier League derby on Monday night, winning an intense encounter 1-0 at Bloomfield Stadium.
Eliran Atar scored the only goal of the match from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute to give the yellow-and-blue its first derby win in league action since March 2008.
The win takes Maccabi up to sixth place in the standings and all but ends Hapoel’s hopes of catching Ironi Kiryat Shmona, with the Reds remaining in second place, 14 points behind the league leader.
However, Monday’s match was always far more about pride than points and the players showed it on the field, fighting tenaciously and occasionally also losing their head completely, with both Avihai Yadin and Salim Toama being sent off in stoppage time after clashing with referee Menashe Mashiah, who showed seven yellow cards and two reds in a classic derby affair.
Hapoel got off to a fast start and its fans thought the team had taken the lead after just 60 seconds only to quickly find out that the linesman had correctly called for offside, disallowing Nosa Igiebor's goal. Hapoel remained the more adventurous team in the subsequent minutes but for all its tenacity it rarely troubled Maccabi's resolute defense.
The visitors were content on hitting Hapoel on the break for the first half an hour of the game, but began to show more courage in the final 10 minutes of the half and took the lead three minutes from the break.
Iyad Khutaba pulled down Yoav Ziv in the box and Atar stepped up to smash in the penalty.
The match burst into life after the opener, with both sides coming tantalizingly close to finding the back of the net at the start of the second half.
Hapoel’s Omer Damari continued his poor run of form four minutes after the break, firing wide from five meters out and Hapoel would have been two goals down five minutes later had it not been for Apoula Edel’s fantastic save from Atar.
The final third of the match belonged to Hapoel, but goalkeeper Guy Haimov gave the game of his life to deny the Reds time and again.
Maccabi’s ‘keeper began his extraordinary second half with an instinctive save from Igiebor’s deflected pass in the 56th minute before saving two consecutive efforts from Marko Suler from subsequent corners.
Damari wasted another golden opportunity in the 75th minute, firing high from close range and Haimov had to be at his best once more three minutes later to deny Toto Tamuz’s powerful shot.
Hapoel threw everything but the kitchen sink at Maccabi, but it couldn’t get the better of Haimov and allowed its frustration to get the better of it in stoppage time.
Yadin and Toama were sent off and Mashiah and Maccabi players were stranded on the pitch long after the final whistle, with Hapoel fans hurling anything they could get their hands on onto the pitch. Maccabi players didn’t care one bit, celebrating a memorable victory with their fans, one they will not soon forget.