Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Pako Ayestaran showed his critics exactly what qualities he brings to the club by finally vanquishing his closest rival and putting a nice check mark next to defeating Hapoel Beer Sheva. Not only did Ayestaran beat them on the score sheet 3-1 but he held true to his direction, his way which he has been preaching all year long.
Firstly the Basque coach was the anti-Pako making championship winning substitutions at the right moments. By bringing on speedster Tal Ben Chaim for the midfield conscience Nosa Igiebor (instead of his usual sub of Dor Micha) and replacing static striker Eden Ben Bassat (who did have one of his best games of the season) with Rada Prica, Pako opened up the Maccabi attack to go for the jugular and title number three in a row.
Prica offered offense from the air as the Swedish striker constantly was a threat on headers almost scoring on 3(!) occasions once. Ben Chaim created more space on the wings and created havoc immediately for the tiring Beer Sheva players as Pako grasped the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. All season long he had said that he wanted to make sure that the club headed into the playoffs in good shape, mentally, physically and physically fit and he made sure that his squad did just that.
With Israeli star Eran Zahavi scoring Maccabi’s bookend goals in the 3rd & 83rd minutes and Maor Bozaglo tying up the match early in the 2nd half it was Ben Chaim & Micha who flew down the flanks while Elisha Levy and his southerners could only try to keep up later in the game. Pako the so called “fitness” coach blew away the competition with the two studs combining for the game winning goal in the 79th minute.
While Pako has all season long been true to his words and methods by not wavering once from his football philosophy he made a championship substitute when he saw the championship about to be won.
On the other hand, Beer Sheva’s embattled coach Elisha Levy was well, typical Elisha not playing chess and matching moves to ensure his side at worst would walk out of Bloomfield with a draw. Levy has not changed since his coaching days at Kfar Saba, Maccabi Haifa and of course now Hapoel Beer Sheva.
Sure Levy has won championships but not because of his coaching prowess, as the best he could say was that he had brought on Roie Gordana for the once again ineffective Maor Melikson and that Maccabi could drop points in Haifa and at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. But let’s be honest folks, Levy sounded defeated and the moves he made didn’t help his side remain in the championship hunt. The desparate move to bring on Siraj Nasar & Shlomi Arbeitman after Maccabi’s second goal was too little too late.
Elisha being Elisha blew a chance to close to 2-points with Tel Aviv as the loss opened up a 8-point lead with 8 matches to go. He’ll now be fighting to stay in 2nd place and look forward to a potential Israel State Cup clash with Maccabi Tel Aviv later this year.
All the credit goes to Pako for seizing the opportunity as his third match against Beer Sheva was the charm.
Kiryat Shemona finally won a match after a couple of months where they were just unable to secure 3-points against any side. Mindaugas Panka scored the lone goal of the game helping the Northern club defeat Maccabi Petach Tikva at The Moshava Stadium 1-0.