Maccabi Haifa finally celebrated their Israel League championship in style as they overwhelmed Maccabi Netanya 4-0 at a packed Sammy Ofer Stadium. The Green supporters came out in full force to see their heroes and watch them lift the Championship plate while winning their final game of the regular season ahead of Tuesday’s State Cup Final against Hapoel Beer Sheva.
Barak Bachar’s team got off to a quick start as Mavis Tchibota was pulled down in the box and then converted the 21st minute penalty kick to give Haifa the lead, while Godsway Donyoh latched onto a Mahmoud Jaber through ball and sent it behind Netanya keeper Dani Amos for 2-0 advantage by the break.
Jaber once again played facilitator as he set up Omer Atzily for the Greens third marker as the aforementioned Atzily was also involved in the fourth goal recording an asset on Maor Levi’s strike to wrap up an easy win by the Carmel Mountain.
“Right from the get go we were clear competitors to take the league championship this season,” Bachar began after the victory. “We had to chase after Beer Sheva for many matchdays and once we passed them we fell off a bit. When the expectations increase, the players expect more form themselves as well and it’s tough to handle that on the pitch.”
“I learnt how powerful the Haifa fans are this season after having gone through they previous campaign without them for the most part due to the coronavirus. We felt the supporters from day one and it’s very hard to explain their influence. We have to also really respect the players who gave wonderful performances the entire season and who out in a lot of hard work along with the staff.”
Netana coach Benny Lam congratulated Haifa and also spoke about his club’s accomplishments once he came on board ironically from the Greens youth department where he served as the Under-19 head coach. “We wanted to get a good result in the final game but I have to tip my hat to Maccabi Haifa. They have been above all others this season.”
“When I arrived at Netanaya they asked me just to keep the team in the league. Then management asked to try and get the team into the championship playoffs. Once we accomplished that I was requested to find a way to punch our ticket to Europe. We did all three. Maccabi Netanya is a great place to be and I am very happy to be here.”
Haifa midfielder Tjaron Chery also looked back at the title as well as focussing on the club;s next task at hand, “I am very happy and my goal was to take the championship. We have one more final to go. I’ve won a Cup before but not a Double. Right now that is the goal.”
Defender of the season Sean Goldberg also reflected on the season that was, “I always believed in myself and I am happy that I can celebrate with this amazing team. Every other team came in to play us this season with the drive to beat the champs but we worked hard from day one both the players and coaching staff alike. It was very important that we were able to celebrate with our fans and now we will focus on our next goal.”
Maccabi blanked Hapoel 2-0 in the Tel Aviv derby thanks to a pair of second half goals to end the season with a victory in what is most probably head coach Mladen Krstajic’s final game on the yellow-and-blue sidelines. After a goalless first half, Djordje Jovanovic and Stipe Perica teamed up on the first marker as the latter slotted the ball home for a 1-0 lead in the 75th minute.
Less than ten minutes later, starlet Oscar Gloch made a magnificent play to set up Jovanovic who came up short, but substitute Avi Rikan pounced on the rebound to score Maccabi’s second goal and take the 3-points and the win.
“We’re not content by finishing in third place,” Krstajic said. “But don’t forget what the situation was like before I arrived here. We were not in good position on the table and the team was in very bad shape. There are not many crazy coaches to take on this risk and I want to commend my staff for the job that they did. I don’t know if this was my last game here but most importantly is that I along with my staff proved that we are on a very high level. Whatever the club will decide we will see.”
“We tried our best and we did everything that we could but Maccabi is a higher quality and better team than us,” Hapoel coach Kobi Refuah said. “I won’t run away from the truth. It’s tough for us against Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa. We came up short in the small details and we can’t give up the goals the way we did at this level. I am very disappointed.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva downed Bnei Sahknin 3-1 ahead of the State Cup Final as Eyad Abu Abid via penalty, Gustavo Marmentini and Rotem Hatuel scored for the southern reds while Roie Shukrani found the back of the goal for the Galilee squad.
“We finished in second place and we knew that we had to win to do so,” Beer Sheva coach Elyaniv Barda said. “We began the game off really well but when we took a quick lead we felt a bit too comfortable and we conceded. After making changes at the break we were able to win the game. It’s not easy to play a game like this right before the State Cup final as we need to make sure the players are focussed which they were in this game and in fact we are right now at our peak.”