Maccabi Tel Aviv seem to have hit some kind of wall. Consistently Pako Ayestaran’s players begin matches like a house on fire, control the tempo and score. Then they suddenly shift into neutral and eat up the time on the clock until roughly the 60th minute. At that point, players are subbed in and out as Maccabi’s fitness usually takes over and they score another goal or two to put away the game and go home with 3-points.
However as of late this hasn’t been happening with confidence and regularity. While Maccabi continues to play well at home, they have not won an away match since January in Ashdod(!). And that again was the case in Haifa where the sides split the points as Eran Zahavi scored for Tel Aviv & Ruben Rayos for Haifa in a 1-1 draw. But since January? That’s certainly a long, long time ago and because of that the yellow-and-blue just haven’t been able to put away the championship.
Is it Pako’s style that is stagnating Maccabi Tel Aviv? Are the players bored on the pitch? Possibly both. The red flags need to be waved in urgency after the 1-1 draw in Haifa and the slim victory over Ahi Nazareth in the Israel a State Cup semi final matchup. There were large swaths of time in each of these matches where Maccabi just coasted along and were dominated by the Greens.
Ahi Nazreth is definitely not near the same level of Maccabi or even a Ligat Ha’Al club and while Maccabi Haifa is a stronger side they’ve had an erratic year, an up and down season. Tel Aviv had Haifa on their heals for the first 30 minutes of the match and couldn’t finish off the wounded side. Veteran midfielder Gustavo Boculi was taken off for Michel in the 34th minute and all of a sudden the home team’s fortunes changed in a flash. Ruben Rayos showed his fine qualities and Haifa looked like a team that could potentially beat out Beitar Jerusalem for the coveted 4th position in the league that would allow them the chance to qualify for Europa League action.
Even the radio announcers for the local Haifa station changed their tune. They had been cussing out the coach Marko Balbul, the players and everything else about Haifa for the first half an hour and then suddenly they could do no wrong. It was kind of entertaining!
With Haifa visiting Jerusalem next week, this crucial match will now become center stage as to who will make it and who won’t. Unfortunately for Beitar, Haifa looked mighty fine last night once the midfield switch took place and Michel & Avichay Yadin were able to battle Gal Alberman, Nosa Igiebor & Nikola Mitrovic straight up. The same combination will probably be in place next week as well and Jerusalem should be wary of this in their preparations.
Doss Haifa deserve to play in Europe this year? Well, numbers don’t lie and if they do finish in 4th place then so be it, they play in Euorpe. Their supporters certainly deserve it for their constant support this season and of course with a state of the art brand new stadium the argument could be made that they do just based on outside factors. On the other side of the coin, Beitar Jerusalem is constantly fighting against its own supporters and the racism that unfortunately rains down from some of the fans has caused undeniable damage to the team both on and off the pitch.
Some Beitar fans are about to go head to head against their brothers sisters as some are saying, enough is enough with the racist chants and it’s time to bring in the best players no matter what race, colour or creed they may be. Chances are great that owner Eli Tabib will not stay on with the team if serious attitudes don’t change and will e interesting to see what transpires. For the best and for the worst.
With a fight for the 4th position and a dream that there is a challenge for the top spot one can only hope we’ll see competitive football for the next month from the top 6 teams in the league. What would happen if Kiryat Shemona wins next week coupled by a Hapoel Beer Sheva home victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv and the kead drops to 5 points. From there Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Kiryat Shemona at Bloomfield Stadium and somehow they take a valuable away win. The spread would be only 2 points gong into the last 2 rounds of the year.
Could Maccabi Tel Aviv lose the title? Could they?
But one can fantasize.