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 had no fear and 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.