New Bloomfield Opens, Israel National Team Games on Horizon, Matchday 2 Preview

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The Sports Rabbi is The Jerusalem Post Friday August 30, 2019

This past Sunday night saw Bnei Yehuda and Kiryat Shemona open up the brand new Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv-Jaffa after three seasons of playing on the road so to speak. With the close of the 2015/16 season, the old 14,000 seat stadium was torn down making way for a state of the art 29,000 seat facility. Featuring 10 tribunes, 32 entrances, 4 dressing rooms and plenty of access for the physically challenged, the new stadium is certainly the pearl of the city.

Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv will also move back into the stadium after having spent the last three campaigns at the Moshava Stadium in Petah Tikva and the Netanya Stadium respectively and both sides are excited to be back home. The Reds welcomed 19,000 fans to their inaugural match at the stadium this past week which resulted in a goalless draw against Maccabi Netanya.

Following the game, Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Shahar Hirsch expressed his joy on returning to Bloomfield, “This is the Israeli Cathedral of Football and there is always a great atmosphere here. I waited for three long seasons to return to Bloomfield to be in this environment.”

The yellow-and-blue will play their first match at the new stadium on Sunday night against city rival Bnei Yehuda. With close to 20,000 season ticket holders, Maccabi have doubled the amount of subscribers from previous campaigns and almost every one of their home contests this coming season will be sold out.

In the future, the Israel National Team will feature at the stadium while the facility will also host many concerts and other events to the delight of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai who pushed to ensure the stadium would be completed in time for the 2019/20 season.

Turning to the Israel National Team, they will be in 2020 European Championship qualifying action in Beer Sheva on Thursday night when they host North Macedonia at Turner Stadium and then again on Monday evening when they visit Slovenia in Ljubljana. The blue-and-white will look to improve on their record of 2 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss with the likes of superstar striker Eran Zahavi who leads the entire competition with 7 goals so far this campaign. Captain Bibras Natcho who recently signed with Serbian powerhouse Partizan Belgrade along with Shakhtar Donetsk starlet Manor Solomon and Dia Saba will be counted on as well by the Sabra faithful.

Head Coach Andreas Herzog will look to get back onto the winning track after falling 4-0 to Poland in June. Israel has won three of their last four games against Macedonia but fell 1-0 on a lone goal by veteran marksman Goran Pandev the last time the two met in World Cup qualifying back in September of 2017. In the second qualifying match this coming window, the blue-and-white will look to win their first ever game against Slovenia as they sport a record of 3 draws and 1 loss against the Balkan squad with the most recent result a 1-1 affair to kick off Euro qualifying this past March in Haifa.

Matchday Two of the Israel Premier League is littered with fantastic contests beginning with the Haifa Derby on Saturday night as Hapoel host’s Maccabi in what should be an electric matchup at a packed Sammy Ofer Stadium. Both sides are coming off victories in their opening games and will battle it out for supremacy on the Carmel early on in the season.

Tjaronn Chery who sparked the Greens off of the bench last week in the win over Hapoel Raanana will surely want to put on an equally dynamic display while Haim Silvas’s squad will look to send their fans home happy in one of the most anticipated clashes of the campaign.

Also on Saturday, Maccabi Netanya will host newcomers Sektzia Ness Tziona as both teams will search for their first goal of the season at the Netanya Stadium while Ashdod will welcome Hapoel Tel Aviv to the Yud Alef Stadium in the Port City with each side looking for their opening win.

Maccabi Tel Aviv will be front and center on Sunday evening as the yellow-and-blue open up their home schedule at the New Bloomfield Stadium when they host Yossi Abuksis’s Bnei Yehuda. Vladimir Ivic’s side will want to show quality after recording an unconvincing victory last Matchday over Ness Tziona while the State Cup holders will attempt to win their second league game at the refurbished facility.

Beitar Jerusalem will visit Hapoel Raanana at the Moshava Stadium on Sunday night as well and Roni Levy’s charges will look to convert the many chances they had last week against Beer Sheva into goals. Hapoel Beer Sheva will welcome Hapoel Hadera to Turner Stadium after having just hosted Feyenoord in Europa League Playoff Round qualifying action.

The final contest of the round will feature Hapoel Kfar Saba at Kiryat Shemona as the Northern squad will look to brush off last week’s dramatic loss to Bnei Yehuda.

On Thursday night Hapoel Beer Sheva and Bnei Yehuda ended their European campaigns at home with 3:0 and 1:0 defeats to Feyenoord and Malmo respectively.