Yellow-and-blue escapes, Greens get pipped

Mac TA scores late tally to edge Bnei Yehuda; Ashdod pulls off upset by beating Mac Haifa.

Maccabi Tel Aviv celebrates goal 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv celebrates goal 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
A Rade Prica stoppage-time goal maintained Maccabi Tel Aviv’s perfect start to the Premier League season on Sunday night, while Maccabi Haifa suffered a surprise setback at Ashdod SC.
The reigning-champion from Tel Aviv dominated Bnei Yehuda from the first whistle, but was surely beginning to think that it wasn’t going to be its day after coming up just short time and again, hitting the woodwork on three occasions.
However, after a frustrating match, Swedish striker Prica scored the winner in the 91st minute, heading in from close range to secure a 1-0 victory at Bloomfield Stadium.
“Some games you win in the first minute and some after 90 minutes,” said yellow-andblue coach Paulo Sousa. “We deserved this. There was only one team today that tried to win the match.”
Tel Aviv joined Hapoel Beersheba as the only teams with two victories from two matches after Maccabi Haifa dropped to a stunning 3-2 defeat at Ashdod.
Haifa seemed to be cruising after Hen Ezra gave it the lead just 31 seconds into the match.
However, Ashdod twice came back from a goal down and registered its first victory of the season thanks to Roei Beckel’s 71st-minute winner.
“We played poorly,” said dejected Haifa coach Arik Benado. “We had many issues with our defensive play and we were punished. When you play like that on defense you don’t deserve to win.”
At Bloomfield, Eran Zahavi was the focal point of Tel Aviv’s attacking play in the early stages, twice squandering tantalizing opportunities.
The hosts were centimeters away from the opener in the 24th minute when Tal Ben- Haim’s shot hit the post and Zahavi was also denied by the woodwork in the 65th minute.
It really seemed like Bnei Yehuda would hold on for a precious point when Maharan Radi’s effort from the center of the box rattled the crossbar four minutes from time.
However, Prica ensured Maccabi took all three points and kept its title defense on track with a second straight win.
Despite making five changes to the lineup that drew 1-1 with Astra in Romania on Thursday to advance to the Europa League group stage, Haifa couldn’t have got off to a better start in Ashdod.
After only 31 seconds, Ezra cut into the box from the right flank in trademark style and sent a splendid effort into the top right corner.
Considering its impressive start to the season, Haifa seemed to be on course for another emphatic win.
However, Ashdod’s players never dropped their heads and got back on level terms in the 13th minute.
Yero Bello beat two Haifa defenders to head the ball right into the path of Gadi Kinde and the promising 19- year-old midfielder easily found the back of the net for his first ever league goal.
Haifa never quite found its rhythm after that, but it still held the lead at the break, catching Ashdod off guard with a swift break forward in the 40th minute.
Just seconds after Davidov should have put Ashdod in front, only to fire straight at Bojan Saranov with only the ’keeper to beat, the visitors went ahead courtesy of Dino Ndlovu’s clinical finish from the edge of the area.
However, Ashdod was the better team throughout the second half and reaped its due reward in the 63rd minute. Kinde returned the favor to Bello, squaring the ball for the Nigerian striker for an easy close-range finish.
The hosts completed the comeback in the 71st minute, with Beckel picking up the rebound from his initial shot and firing into the back of the net from a tight angle.
“When you play an attacking team like Haifa there’s no point in sitting back and trying to contain them,” said Ashdod coach Nir Klinger. “We decided to send players forward and take them on at their game and it worked out.”