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Ligat Ha’Al Round 23 February 21-23, 2015

Hapoel Haifa had Macacbi Tel Aviv surrounded all night-Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv Website

Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-2 Maccabi Haifa

In a back and forth affair with both sides fighting for their upper playoff lives, we got a barn burner of a game that ended deadlocked at two a piece. Eliran Atar scored a brace for Haifa as he definitely has a love for Bloomfield Stadium now scoring 3 goals in the last 2 games in the facility. But each time he scored the first off an errant back pass by Hapoel defender Avraham Chekul and the second off a Apoula Edel rebound coming from a quick Ruben Rayos shot, Tel Aviv was able to answer. Striker Shlomi Azoulay who has disappointed for the Reds to date found the back of the goal on a nice turn around shot from the top of the box and Ben Reichert on loan from Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Gili Vermouth sale scored a goal of the year candidate taking the volley off a rebounded shot to slice the ball into the goal. As time winded down both clubs tried to find the winner with Hen Ezra having the best chance off a Vladimir Stoyakovich long throw, however the midfielder who ran the length of the pitch decided to take matters into his own hands took a poor shot instead of finding one of the two open Haifa players close to the goal who could have easily bagged the 3-points for Marko Balbul.

Maccabi Petach Tikva 1-1 Beitar Jerusalem

Eli Dasa may have scored a goal of the year candidate for Beitar Jerusalem, but it still counted for only 1 goal that wasn’t enough as Guy Levy’s side finished with a disappointing draw at the Moshava Stadium in Petach Tikva. After a dull and drab first half by both sides, Beitar finally broke through on a wicked 30 meter strike by the defensive back whom certainly caught the attention of Israel National Team coach Eli Gutman over the last few weeks. However, Belgian midfielder Joachim Mununga headed in the tying goal to give the sides a split of the points.

Maccabi Netanya 4-2 Hapoel Beer Sheva

Netanya just keeps going up under recently appointed coach Roni Levy while Beer Sheva continues in the opposite direction with more trouble in sight. With Larry Kayode arguably the most sensational, exciting player in Ligat Ha’Al this year leading the way, Netanya has moved unbelievably into the reaches of the upper playoffs. The aforementioned Kayode scored the first goal off a nice feed by captain Eran Levy and notched the club’s 3rd strike in the second half on a fabulous individual effort worth it’s candidacy as a goal of the year. Dovev Gabbay evened the match up for Beer Sheva on the final frame but a handball in the box gave Eran Levy a penalty goal from the spot which was then followed up by Kayode’s 2nd and Romario Pires with a terrific shot from 25 meters out to seal the game for the home side. John Ogu brought a goal back for Beer Sheva in injury time but it was too little too late as Elisha Levy just can’t figure out how to get the maximum from his charges. Maor Bozaglo has been quiet since his outburst against Beitar Jerusalem in December but nothing since. Captain Elyaniv Barda can’t find the back of the goal and Maor Melikson has been a disappointment the whole season through. Levy will need to find some answers quickly or his club may fall out of European contention very, very fast.

Hapoel Haifa 2-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv

New coach Tal Benin figured out how to stop Maccabi Tel Aviv as Hapoel Haifa shocked the reigning champion 2-0 at Sammy Ofer Stadium. Nothing seemed to go right for Maccabi as Ma’aran Lala gave Haifa a 1-0 lead in the first half and a late header by Tadas Kiankis off a corner gave them the insurance marker to pick up the 3 points in order to avoid the relegation zone. Benin turned Canadian striker Tosaint Ricketts into a right back as he started an offensive minded lineup even without Albanian Hamdi Salahi at his disposal due to injury.

On the Maccabi side, nothing seemed to click for Pako Ayestaran and his star studded lineup. With Eden Ben Basat starting in front of Eran Zahavi & Tal Ben Chaim, Haifa successfully clogged the midfield and didn’t allow much movement by the National Team players. Even with the insertion of Gili Vermouth in the 2nd half, Maccabi still couldn’t find the open men that would provide the club with the chances they had seemed to have all year long.

The loss allowed Kiryat Shemona to crawl to within 1-point of Maccabi Tel Aviv whom they play a State Cup match on Wednesday night with at the Northern city.

Kiryat Shemona 1-1 Hapoel Raanana

Playing without star striker Anthony Nwakaeme, Raanana went into Kiryat Shemona and stole a point from the 2nd place club which moved them at least temporarily into an upper playoff position. After a scoreless 1st half the home side opened up the scoring on a nice play by Adrian Rochet finding Mindaugus Panka whose wonderful chance was rebounded right to David Manga who put the ball behind a helpless Gerafi. However, Mamadou Thiam allowed Shoval Gozlan to draw Raanana even at one as the January transfer window man now has two goals for his new club.

Bnei Sakhnin 0-0 Hapoel Petach Tikva

Visiting Petach Tikva under Menachem Koretzky picked up an important draw and point to keep them moving forwards away from the relegation zone at Doha Stadium in Sakhnin. The home side coming off an impressive win against Beitar Jerusalem couldn’t find their scoring touch for coach Eli Cohen as few chances were had by both sides.

Ashdod 0-0 Hapoel Akko

Ashdod under Nir Klinger haven’t won in 6 rounds as the faithful began to call for his firing during and after the scoreless draw against relegation boind Akko. Though National Team coach Eli Gutman will be happy that his starting keeper Ofir Marchiano pitched a shutout and regained some confidence it should also be noted that Akko as previously mentioned is the weakest club in the Ligat Ha’Al.