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Maccabi Tel Aviv & the Champions League. Time is of the essence!

Pako Ayestaran, Where does his future lie?

Maccabi Tel Aviv 4-1 Beitar Jerusalem

Walking down to the restrooms at halftime I was stopped by the friendly press security guard and who asked me what would happen in the 2nd half between Maccabi Tel Aviv & Beitar Jerusalem seeing that it was still scoreless. I said don’t worry come minute 60 or so and we will all see how Maccabi will show off their quality as Beitar won’t be able to keep up with them. Well I couldn’t have hit the nail any harder on the head as Maccabi Tel Aviv again showed their worth in playoff time as they scored three goals to break a 1-1 deadlock as the sides traded goals in minutes 56 & 57.

Dor Micha scored his first ever brace!

Dor Micha scored his first ever brace!

Dor Micha put Maccabi on the score sheet first in the 56th minute with a nice individual effort down the left side of the pitch but just one minute later Itzik Cohen, who may have been offisde evened the score by beating Tel Aviv ‘keeper Juan Pablo and putting a slight scare into the yellow and blue. But after a couple of Pako Ayestaran substitute specials Rada Prica announced his return by beating Beitar shot stopper Boris Kleiman from close range in minute 68 to give his side a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Eran Zahavi and Micha’s second of the match, an absolute Golazo polished off Jerusalem as their left back Shmulik Melul saw red after a reckless late tackle on cSheran Yeini and headed for the showers with ten minutes remaining in the game. It seems that nothing can go wrong and stop the steam engine in search for its third championship in a row.

With the season almost put to bed, the real question that Maccabi Tel Aviv needs to address is how are they going to make it out of the UEFA Champions League qualifiers and find their way into the lucrative European tournament for the first time since 2004. And that will be the challenge that owner Mitch Goldhar will have to navigate over the next few months trying to put together a squad that can prove its worth on the grandest stage of them all.

But in order to do that Goldhar will have to sort out his technical director and coaching situation sooner rather than later.

For months there has been speculation as to Jordi Cryuff’s future and unbelievably it is still uncertain if he will be continuing with the club. The thought was that Goldhar would ensure that his management team would be finalized when he was in Israel last month however, that has yet to have happened. Without a technical director in place the players who are finishing contracts are not sure where they will be playing for the 2015-16 season, and that’s a massive problem as preparation needs to begin now in earnest to build a comprehensive team and plan going forward.

There also seems to be a philosophical difference between Cryuff and his coach Pako Ayestaran as to the best way to use the pieces of the puzzle the Spanish/Dutchman has given him to try and fit together. The style of offense, the defense, changes mid match which former coach Paulo Sousa was a master at. But Pako is not Sousa and that is fine. Pako is a man that has a way, a vision and a methodology as to how he wants to see his club. It took the fans time to warm up to his style but after yesterday’s performance there is no question that the supporters are behind the man in the dugout. Unfortunately Cryuff just doesn’t share Pako’s vision and this has been known for some time now. However, at the end of the day, Pako is in line to win a treble having already taken the Toto Cup, about to clinch the league and are playing in the semifinals of the State Cup next week in Jerusalem. Not bad for the first year manager.

The problem is that without clarity from above, the players who perform on the pitch for management match in and match out have no idea where their futures lies.

Speaking with Carlos Garcia after the game, he said point blank that without the management situation resolved everyone is in a holding pattern. As much as he and his family would like to stay in Israel more than his hometown of Barcelona, he’s at a loss as to where his future will be. As long as Cryuff doesn’t know, he doesn’t know. Other players including Juan Pablo and Rada Prica are in the same boat as well. Garcia clearly said that he wants the opportunity to play in the Champions League and that it was a huge disappointment that the club couldn’t defeat Maribor and move further on in the competition last year.

But of course Maccabi was dealt with a cruel hand. No home matches due to the Gaza war. A coach in Oscar Garcia that jumped ship in the middle of qualification. Bringing in players such Eden Ben Bassat and Nosa Igiebor in the middle of the qualifying stages didn’t help matters. Whatever could go wrong, went wrong. Was Maccabi a better team than Maribor? The answer we all came up with was a resounding yes!

We’ve already seen one Maccabi player move on for next season with captain Sheran Yeini heading off to Holland and Vitesse Arnhem, who may be next? Will other players begin to jump ship if the management situation doesn’t clear up sooner rather than later? Time is of the essence!

As everyday goes by without a firm direction in place for 2015-16 season, Maccabi Tel Aviv is at risk of wiping away all of the progress they made the last 3 years, and that would be a mighty shame.

OTHER NEWS

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s lead grew to 10 points as Hapoel Beer Sheva only could muster a 2-2 draw with an extra man for over 20 minutes against 3rd place Kiryat Shemona as Wassermil Stadium in Beer Sheva. Roy Gordana & Siraj Naser scored for the home side while Rodgers Kola & Ofir Mizrachi answered for Kiryat Shemona as Beer Sheva owner Alona Barkat tweeted after the game, “A disappointing draw & we gave up an advantage,” indicating her unhappiness and perhaps Elisha Levy the coach may be let go?

Maccabi Haifa couldn’t find a way to pick up more than a point in a scoreless draw against Maccabi Petach Tikva at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa as neither side seems to want to pass Beitar Jerusalem and claim the 4th position and a spot in UEFA Europa League qualifying. Greens captain Yossi Benayoun had been a game time decision due top injury but he laced them up and played the full 90 minutes. Itmar Nitzan has been proving to be a true gem of a find for Ran Ben Shimon as the ‘keeper had yet another terrific match.