Soccer: Maccabi, Hapoel draw in TA derby

The single point moves second-place Hapoel to within four points of Betar Jerusalem.

maccabi hapoel 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
maccabi hapoel 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The Tel Aviv derby ended in a 0-0 stalemate on Sunday night after Maccabi and Hapoel canceled each other out and failed to break the deadlock throughout the 90 minutes in the Premier League Matchday 18 finale at Bloomfield Stadium. The single point moves second-place Hapoel to within four points of league leader Betar Jerusalem, with Maccabi in the fourth spot, only two points behind Hapoel. The big winner on Sunday was Betar, which maintains its comfortable lead at the top and keeps some breathing distance between itself and the rest of the championship hopefuls. Scoring opportunities were scarce at Bloomfield with neither side managing to hit top gear throughout the match. After a promising first five minutes in which the cross-town rivals could have scored, the pace quickly settled down, with both sets of players more worried about conceding as opposed to scoring. "We didn't earn three points but we also didn't lose," Hapoel coach Yitzhak Schum said after the match. "There wasn't much soccer on display tonight. "It was a war with a lot of desire by both sets of players. It was important for us to win this derby after we lost the first one this season. "However, at least we didn't lose the match." Maccabi coach Eli Cohen felt his side was the better one during the match, but agreed that a draw was a fair result. "You can't say that this was a one-sided match," he said. "We were better than Hapoel at certain moments and we moved the ball well. "We had an advantage in speed and in penetration into the box, but we failed to capitalize on that." Both clubs were missing their inspirational captains, as Maccabi's Avi Nimni and Hapoel's Yossi Abuksis are injured. However, the captains' absence wasn't felt at the start of the match, with both teams almost grabbing the lead within the first five minutes. Giovanni Rosso's looping header, with less than a minute on the clock, was making its way towards the goal but Hapoel 'keeper Shavit Elimelech regained his composure just in the nick of time and caught the ball on the goalline. Four minutes later, Hapoel midfielder Walid Badier had the best chance of the half when he received the ball a mere five meters from the goal, but could do no better than balloon his shot. Badier squandered another golden opportunity in the 27th minute when he hit a free volley from 10 meters out well over Elimelech's goal. Three minutes later, Moshe Biton should have given Maccabi the lead after he managed to wrestle his way past two Hapoel defenders, but failed to place his shot on target with only the 'keeper to beat. The reds were the sharper side at the start of the second half and, nine minutes after the interval, almost took the lead. Gili Vermot released a good shot from the edge of the area, but Maccabi's 'keeper was well placed and gathered the ball. Scoring opportunities were at a premium in the second half and substitute Erez Mesika should have done better with his header in the 67th minute. Mesika was perfectly placed to head the ball past Elimelech, but his poor effort rolled harmlessly wide and the match was destined for a goalless draw.