Maccabi Haifa got by Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-1 at Bloomfield Stadium to remain in first place and keep Maccabi Tel Aviv at bay in second place. Tjaron Chery scored an early 6th minute goal as he retuned to action after being on the sidelines with an injury to give the Greens a 1-0 lead. But Shai Elias pulled the Reds even a quarter hour later, however in the 26th minute Jose Rodriguez gave Haifa the lead for good with a goal that the Spaniard dedicated in memory of his cousin who recently passed away due to the coronavirus at the age of 30.
“The most important thing was that we won the game against a very good club who are in terrific shape,” Haifa coach Barak Bachar said. “We knew this was going to be game of character and a real battle. But we came in well and just couldn’t kill off the game. Perhaps the pressure and the fact we were tired played into it but we ended up taking the win.”
A disappointed Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Nir Klinger was irritated following the loss, “We should have taken the three points and we should have been able to avoid their two goals despite them being very nice strikes. We were the better team in the second half and we have to keep that going n the upcoming games.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv sunk Ashdod 3-1 at Bloomfield Stadium despite the yellow-and-blue being without striker Aleksandr Pesic who tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent to quarantine. Eyal Golasa put Patrick van Leeuwen’s squad on the board early when the midfielder took advantage of an error by the port sea city side defense and found the back of the goal for a 1-0 lead.
Matan Hozez doubled the advantage with a 74th minute penalty after Dor Peretz had been tripped up in the area, however, Roie Gordana pulled a goal back five minutes later to set up a potentially dramatic end. With Ran Ben Shimon’s said pressing for the equalizer late, Maccabi took advantage of the situation and wished downfield as Avi Rikan finned off a terrific team passing play to notch the victory.
“I am no worried about our play and I’m not concerned about the second half just about the result and what we have done over the past week with many games,” said van Leeuwen. “The players did a terrific job and they fought for this win. With the schedule like it is we have to continue to play as well as we can.”
“We are at the same level as every other team in this league, but we had some issues with the small things,” explained Ben Shimon. “This was a strange game that is hard to analyze. We weren’t sharp enough and we had issues in the first twenty minutes of the game. After that we controlled the pace of play but just came up short.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva and Beitar Jerusalem played to a 1-1 draw at Toto-Turner Stadium as the teams split the points in Roni Levy’s debut on the sidelines for the southern reds. The game started off with a bang as Beitar ‘keeper Itamar Nitzan pulled Sagiv Yehezkel down in the box good for a penalty, but the shot stopper came up big when he saved Josue’s spot kick with a dive to his left, palming the ball away to safety as the first half ended goalless.
Yarden Shua gave the visitors the lead right after the break when he took Santiago Ocampos’s cross and out it behind Ohad Levita for the 1-0 advantage. But Rotem Hatuel found the equalizer in the 83rd minute when Beitar’s Nico Olsak coughed up the ball to Yehezkel who found Hatuel and scored the tying goal to earn a point a piece.
Roni Levy, who began the season in charge of Beitar reflected on the game that was, “The players did a good job of working hard but we had some trouble focusing in the first half. We could have scored a goal or two and then we began the second half poorly where we had very little patience. I am very optimistic and I am happy that we were able to straighten things out.”
“We have another five games until the championship playoffs and each one is like a Cup final,” explained Beitar co-coach Shay Barda. “I saw that the team played well but we didn’t create enough chances. We made two mistakes and Beer Sheva had a pair of chances, but that’s soccer.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva played a second game during the week and drew 2-2 with Kiryat Shemona in an entertaining match up north as each team took home a point. Visiting Beer Sheva took the lead in the 20th minute when Sagiv Yehezkel scored his first goal for the southerners since signing in the desert capital as he took a marvelous Josue and put the ball into the back of the net.
Kobi Refuah’s squad found the equalizer twenty minutes later when Eugen Ansah sent a perfect free kick to Roie Kehat who headed the ball home ahead of the break. Kehat then banged in his second goal of the game in the 79th minute to grab a 2-1 Kiryat Shemona lead but Josue slammed a free kick into the goal less than ten minutes later as Roni Levy’s side snatched a point.
“We wanted to win and we knew we were going to play a very tough game against an opponent who is also striving for the championship playoffs,” Levi said following the game. “I’m content with our play and we are going in the right direction.”
“The players were exhausted by the end of the game and I’m proud of them,” Refuah explained. “They gave the maximum as we are playing a crazy schedule of games. As long as there is chance we won’t give up to get to where we want to go.”
Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Hadera played to a goalless draw after Hadera had been reduced to ten men due to a late first half red card as the squads and split the points at the Netanya Stadium.
“It’s a very disappointing result after controlling the game plus we were up a man for a half,” said Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abuksis. “Our efforts didn’t go in and that has been the story this season and while I saw a lot of good things we just couldn’t break through.”
“I’m very pleased with the second half,” said a content Menachem Koretzky. “We didn’t play big soccer but the players really battled and we came away a bit lucky after losing a man for a half.”
Maccabi Petah Tikva and Maccabi Netanya drew 1-1 at the Moshava Stadium as each squad scored a goal to earn a split of the points. Yuval Sadah gave visiting Netanya a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute but rising star Liel Abada found the equalizer in the second half to hand each team a point a piece.