Frustrating and aggravating. That’s what you get when looking at Maccabi Tel Aviv on the morning of May 12, 2015. That’s also what coach Pako Ayestaran must be feeling after drawing yet again on the road, this time a 1-1 tie at Wassermil Stadium against Hapoel Beer Sheva.
It seems that championship which was all but locked up a couple of months ago may go down to the wire as Kiryat Shemona is now only 6-points behind Maccabi with 3 matches to go. And get this, Kiryat Shemona plays Maccabi at Bloomfield this coming Sunday with a chance to cut the lead to a mere 3 points!
Did anyone in their right minds think that this was going to be possible? Did even coach Pako think it possible? Did technical director Jordi Cryuff think it as possible?
Pako started the game with a surprise, inserting rarely used forward Gael Margulies as he did in the Cup match a couple of weeks ago. He sent bewildered striker Eden Ben Basat into the stands for the 2nd week in a row and kept Dor Micha on the bench. Pako has said to us time and time again that he trusts every player in the squad and that they wouldn’t be in Maccabi if they couldn’t feature in any one game.
Coach Ayestaran also said explicitly after the match that everything is going according to plan but you could sense the frustration and aggravation during the press conference knowing that an opportunity was blown in the southern city.
Sure, Maccabi can wrap up the title with a win at home against Kiryat Shemona and that should be enough motivation to get the players to perform at their best. This is especially true when the Israel State Cup final looms just 3 days later against the same Hapoel Beer Sheva and a loss at Bloomfield could put some serious doubt in the minds of the players before such a crucial match. The real question is, has the doubt already entered their minds?
However, this whole situation leads us back to the real root of the problem which is the fact that both Pako and Cryuff along with a number of players don’t yet know where their future lies after this season. Is the uncertainty affecting the play on the pitch? It could be, we have to remember that the players are also human beings with feelings. Not knowing what is going on with just a month to go until the 2015-16 preseason with a chance to qualify for the UEFA Champions League should they finish in first is extremely unsettling.
Week in and week out Pako and the players are questioned, what have you heard about next year? Where will you be? Are you staying at Maccabi? Do you want to continue in Tel Aviv? The constant barrage of questions can’t help matters as professional as one can be its still a tough situation.
Could this confusion cost Maccabi the League title and or the State Cup? Absolutely!
Pako wouldn’t reveal what he said in the lockerroom to the players after the draw which saw Nosa Igiebor score and pick up a yellow card that will rule him out of the State Cup. That’s usually a sign that what was said was not very good and wasn’t a very happy place to be. He also uncharacteristically complained about the pitch condition in Beer Sheva and the fact that his club was docked points from the derby match that was abandoned months and months ago.
Pako must get the players rallied behind him quickly or else his future with the club which has already been questionable with a difference in philosophies with Cryuff will not be in Israel next season. Pako is a man with a vision, a method and is true to his word perhaps even stubborn but right now the panic button is probably about to be pressed which would not bode well for not only Pako but Maccabi as well.
If not for a phenomenal game by veteran keep Juan Pablo Colinas the result could have been much worse for the yellow and blue. But the out of contract ‘keeper put on a show as he has done the past couple of months and perhaps saved Maccabi and their somewhat fragile confidence. He may have given the club just enough to go out and win the league Sunday night and then capture the Israel State Cup in Haifa.
On the other hand Tal Ben Chaim who should have scored an easy open net goal but his nonchalant shot was saved off the line by a diving Ben Biton and an invisible offense that has been MIA the last 3 rounds is very, very worrying. Maccabi has won 7 matches on the road this year but haven’t been able to take max points away from home since January!
The rest of the team must quickly take Juan Pablo’s example into next week or else the storybook ending for Maccabi Tel Aviv may not be a good one once it is finished.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be without the services of Nosa Igiebor & Dor Peretz for the State Cup final against Hapoel Beer Sheva in Haifa on Wednesday May 20, 2015 due to yellow card accumulation and Eran Zahavi who had a quiet evening will not play on Sunday against Kiryat Shemona also due to yellows. Carlos Garcia and Sheran Yeini have small injuries but should be fit for the upcoming matches. Ovidiu Hoban drew Beer Sheva even with Maccabi in the 2nd half while Igiebor scored Macacbi’s goal off a pin point perfect pass by Nikola Mitrovic.