Tamuz saves Hapoel TA once again

Striker delivers in 86th as Reds vanquish Bnei Yehuda, jump into first.

toto tamuz and ben sahar hapoel tel aviv_311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
toto tamuz and ben sahar hapoel tel aviv_311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
A Toto Tamuz goal four minutes from time gave Hapoel Tel Aviv a 2-1 victory over Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday night, taking the reigning champion to the top of the Premier League standings ahead of Saturday’s showdown with title-rival Maccabi Haifa.
Eran Zahavi’s 22nd minute opener gave Hapoel a deserved lead at halftime, but Tel Aviv looked to be in trouble after Nenad Marinkovic equalized in the 57th minute.
However, just when it seemed that the encounter was heading for a stalemate, Tamuz scored his 18th and most important league goal of the season so far in the 86th minute to put Hapoel in the driver’s seat ahead of Saturday’s crunch match at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
“We played very well in the first half and we once more saw the good-old Hapoel,” Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman said. “We conceded a goal out of nowhere and we struggled after that. This win gives me confidence for Saturday’s match in Haifa. We were back to ourselves for most of tonight’s encounter and we will have to play our game at Kiryat Eliezer as well.”
Hapoel looked to control the proceedings from the start and it didn’t take long before it began to threaten Dele Aiyenugba’s goal.
In the 12th minute, Mario Pecalka’s long ball caught Bnei Yehuda’s defense napping, but Ben Sahar took far too long on the ball and Aiyenugba came out of goal to clear the danger.
Ten minutes later, however, the hosts were rewarded for their early dominance.
A clever set-piece move saw Shay Abutbul square the ball for Zahavi, who smashed the opener into the left corner, giving Bnei Yehuda’s Nigerian ’keeper no chance.
Sahar came tantalizingly close to doubling Hapoel’s lead in the 35th minute after wriggling through Bnei Yehuda’s defense, only to have his shot blocked by Aiyenugba.
The visitors had little to offer on the offensive end in the first half, with Pedro Galvan in charge of most of his team’s forays forward.
Therefore, it was of little surprise that the Argentinian midfielder was the one to set up Bnei Yehuda’s equalizer in the 57th minute.
Galvan sent a clever cross from the left and Marinkovic’s looping header caught Hapoel ’keeper Vincent Enyeama off-guard and stunned the Reds.
Kashtan’s men should have completed the comeback only six minutes later.
Marinkovic found himself all alone down the right flank, but his cross for Pini Balili was not good enough and Hapoel was spared.
Tel Aviv sent more and more men forward as the match drew to a close and Aiyenugba was the busiest player on the pitch in the final minutes of the contest.
Six minutes from time, Tamuz sliced the Bnei Yehuda defense with his surge down the left, but his shot went disappointingly wide.
Just a minute later, Sahar squandered another excellent chance from just inside the area, but in the 86th minute Hapoel netted the precious winner.
Aiyenugba spilled Zahavi’s free kick and Tamuz was first to the rebound to slot in the goal, which may prove to be a turning point in the title race.
“We showed our character tonight and the players gave their all,” Zahavi said. “We wanted the win more than Bnei Yehuda and in the end we deserved it more.”