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Ligat Ha’Al Round 22 February 14-16, 2015

Eliran Atar - Courtesy Maccabi Haifa wesbite

Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-1 Kiryat Shemona

Maccabi Tel Aviv maintained their 2-point lead over 2nd place Kiryat Shemona but it was not without a fight that made it’s way to the 85th minute when Barak Badash finally scored the equalizer for the back-to-back champions. The visitors, Kiryat Shemona under the direction of their terrific coach Barak Bachar did all they could to stymie the yellow-and-blue offense at Bloomfield Stadium on a crisp and occasionally wet Monday night and also were done in by a poor referee non-call by Alon Yefet in the waning seconds of the match.

Voba Braun opened the scoring early on in the match scoring on a shot that should have been stopped by last minute replacement ‘keeper Barak Levy starting in place of Juan Pablo who injured his ribs during the pregame practice. Braun long and low strike to the bottom right hand corner of the Maccabi goal trickled in to give the northern club a 10th minute 1-0 lead. It had looked that Kiryat Shemona had taken the lead a minute or so earlier when David Manga headed in the ball to the same area that Braun scored but his effort was ruled to be offside.

While Maccabi controlled the play for the majority of the game getting the best chances, it took quite a long time for the home side to finally tie up the game late in the match. Eden Ben Bassat started as the lone striker in coach Pako Ayestaran’s 4-2-3-1 formation which he described as being being a mistake to play in his post game press conference actually intimating that it was the media who had wanted to see such a setup from Maccabi.

The problem was that Kiryat Shemona constantly clogged up the midfield not allowing Maccabi’s top players Eran Zahavi, Dor Micha and Gili Vermouth making his debut any chance to move and break free from their shadowing counterparts. With very little room in the middle of the pitch Maccabi was unable to break through until Ayestaran made a number of changes to his formation allowing for a bit more free movement by his players. Though Maccabi dominated the game, it was as if every Kiryat Shemona player from Shir Tzedek to David Manga and Roie Kehat knew the exact place to be in order to head off any Tel Aviv chance.

However with the insertion of Mahran Radi & Barak Badash the eventual goalscorer, the Maccabi offense opened a bit more and then just enough for Badash to head in the ball to keep Maccabi in 1st place. Listening to Ayestaran after the match he was adamant that his team was better, that Maccabi could win the league without beating their two rivals for the league title, Kiryat Shemona & Hapoel Beer Sheva as well as showing that his tactics of playing Eran Zahavi as a false 9 is the way to go to win the Championship. Check out his interviews in English to understand his philosophy to the game and how he views his squad.

But Ayestaran and his charges got away with highway robbery as one of Israel’s top referees Alon Yefet didn’t call a clear penalty in favor of the visitors with seconds to go as Shimon Abuhetzera was yanked by his shirt to the pitch by Eitan Tibi. Though Eli Hachmon a goal line official yelled to Yefet to call a penalty he didn’t and he admitted to making this mistake after the match. Yefet came out saying clearly that he had made a mistake and this is yet another mistake in a train of errors by referees consistently throughout the season.

Beitar Jerusalem 1-2 Bnei Sakhnin

Bnei Sakhnin have not lost to Beitar Jerusalem since 2010 and nothing changed last night at an empty Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem as the visitors from the Israeli-Arab village won yet again. Mohammed Ghadir was center stage as the speedy winger scored a brace to propel Sakhnin to a win as rained poured down on the players and lush pitch Sunday night in Israel’s capital. Hanan Maman brought back a goal by the Jerusalem side but it was too little too late. Coach Guy Levy attempted to mix things up in the 2nd half by making 3 substitutes early on for the ineffective Danny Preda, Liviu Antal & Ofir Kriaff, however, the changes were not enough.

Beitar could have used some fan support but as the game was played behind closed doors due to a punishment that was levied against the club because racist chants by the supporters. In fact Beitar won’t be playing a home game at Teddy Stadium in front of fans until probably April due to another 2 match radius penalty. It was a sad state of affairs on a eerily dreary night in Jerusalem.

Maccabi Haifa 5-0 Ashdod

Amazing! That would be one word to describe The Greens 5-0 win at Bloomfield Stadium as Haifa played a radius match due to supporters running on their home pitch at Samy Ofer! Marko Balbul had a full lineup with all of Haifa’s new additions on the pitch to start the game and it didn’t take long for them to get rolling. Yossi Benayoun stared it all off with an assist to Itay Shecter in the 8th minute to give Haifa a quick 1-0 lead. Benayoun would add another helper before the end of the half this time assisting on Hen Ezra’s first goal of the night to make it 2-0 after 45 minutes of play. 

The second frame was all Haifa as Medo Kamara, Eliran Atar & Hen Ezra all scored to complete the blowout victory, one that the fans had been waiting for for some time. Atar’s goal was his first since returning from Israel as he was all smiles to finally begin able to play consistently and now find the back of the goal. Israel National team keeper Ofir Marchiano gave up all five by Haifa as the result was an absolute shell shock to Nir Klinger and his squad. 

Hapoel Beer Sheva 1-0 Hapoel Tel Aviv

Beer Sheva scored just one goal coming from Shlomi Arbeitman and it was enough for Elisha Levy and his side to win against Hapoel Tel Aviv at Wassermil Stadium. Eli Cohen had his players ready to battle with Beer Sheva but they were unable to find any offense to keep up with the 3rd place side. Sari Falach had thought he had tied the game up off a nice set up goal but he was correctly ruled to be offside and the goal was waved off sending the Reds to yet another defeat.

Hapoel Petach Tikva 2-1 Hapoel Haifa

Petach Tikva coach Menachem Koretzky picked up his first win in his first game managing the squad as his side were 2-1 winners at the Moshava stadium. Ben Ben Yair playing only his 2nd match with Petach Tikva opened the scoring in the 6th minute with a perfectly placed free kick that stunned Haifa keeper Premysl Kovar that he didn’t move a muscle to try and stop the laser beam. Shachar Hirsch added the home side’s 2nd goal on a penalty kick after Tadas Kijanskas was called for a handball in the box. Haifa striker Hamdi Salihi left the game with a rib injury and was replaced by Canada international Tosaint Ricketts, but it was Ma’aran Lala who cut the lead to one with a goal off a terrible mistake by Petach Tikva keeper Kale when he donated the ball to Roei Shukrani who let Lala pick up yet another goal. But it was not enough to help Haifa come back all the way as Petach Tikva picked up the 3-points.

Hapoel Raanana 2-1 Maccabi Netanya

Netanya struck first when captain Eran Levy scored from the penalty spot as Raanana keeper Daniel Lifshitz was handed and red card for pulling down Or Baruch in the box giving Netanya a one man advantage for most of the match. Netanya’s man to the good ended when central defender Yarin Hassan was given his 2nd yellow card of the match when he pulled down Mamadou Thiam in the box. Anthony Nwakeme’s penalty kick was saved by Netanya goalie Ariel Harush but the rebound was put in by Raanana captain Snir Shucker tying up the contest. However, Nwakeme would not disappoint the home crowd as the Hapoel striker took the ball downfield and flipped it over Harush to give Haim Silvas the win and sending Roni Levy to his first loss since taking over the reigns of Netanya from Yossi Mizrachi.

Hapoel Akko 0-2 Maccabi Petach Tikva

Ran Ben Shimon picked up another win to keep his side in the race for an Europa League qualifying spot by taking care of business up north. Goals by Idan Shemesh and Oz Peretz gave Petach Tikva the win and sent Shlomi Dura and Akko closer and closer to being relegated.