Ofek Bitton scored a late second half injury time goal as Hapoel Jerusalem drew 1-1 with Beitar Jerusalem in a highly anticipated capital city derby matchup. The yellow-and-black broke the deadlock in the 85th minute when Danilo Asprilla headed home a Yarden Shua ball but as the final whistle was about to be blown, Ofek Bitton nodded home the tying goal deep into second half added time as the sides split the points.
“This was a very emotional match,” Hapoel coach Ziv Arie said. “We didn’t deserve to lose and it was a game that was fit to be tied. The guys were real warriors and they battled all the way until the end. The game went back and forth as did the momentum. We were able to hold Beitar to minimal chances but we also had a tough time to score.”
“No question that the result is disappointing,” assistant coach Gal Cohen said following the game. “We were more dangerous than Hapoel and we could taste the victory but there are some good things to take away from this game. We had plenty of chances and we gave a good fight.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv blanked Ashdod 3-0 as Djorde Jovanovic scored a brace while Eran Zahavi added a lone marker in the second half to take the 3-points and the win in Aitor Karanka’s debut on the sidelines for the yellow-and-blue. Ran Ben Shimon’s port city side began the game playing a very defensive style but the hosts were finally able to break through in the 37th minute when Jovanovic took an Enric Saborit ball and went by three players as he sliced the ball into the goal for a 1-0 Maccabi lead.
Jovanovic doubled the advantage in the 52nd minute when he stabbed the ball into the goal off a Zahavi attempt while the aforementioned Zahavi then added a strike of his own 25 minutes later when he polished off a Eyal Golasa pass to hand Karanka his first win.
“It’s been a great experience since the moment that I have arrived,” Karanka said following the win. “I had seen the fans on television but in reality they are even better. This was a tough match and we have more work to do. We didn’t begin the game the way we wanted to but that’s normal since we only had two days to prepare and I didn’t want to change too much.”
“We didn’t threaten Maccabi Tel Aviv and we failed in terms of quality in this game as the better team won the game,” Ashdod’s coach Ran Ben Shimon explained. “We were missing some attacking abilities and since we were not sharp we were punished. We know what we are missing and we are doing everything in our power to bring in some players.”
Maccabi Haifa downed Sektzia Nes Ziona 2-0 to stay atop the table as the greens collected another precious 3-points. Barak Bachar’s squad grabbed a 1-0 lead as Dean David scored from in close in the 21st minute off a Dolev Haziza corner kick while Omer Atzily doubled the advantage in the second half as he put home a penalty to wrap up the win.
“The fans really helped us and they deserve a part of the win,” Bachar commented following the game. “We did what we needed to do in order to take the victory as every player did what they needed to do at their position.”
“The last thing I want to get is congratulations for the game we played,” Nes Ziona’s new coach Shlomi Dura explained. “Maccabi Haifa is at the level that they can press when they want to and they can attack when they want to. We tried our best but we know that the real games for us are coming up over the next two weeks when we play Sakhnin and Hapoel Tel Aviv.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva smashed Hapoel Tel Aviv 6-0 as Tomer Hemed scored a brace down south in the desert capital. Eden Shamir opened the scoring with a header in the 7th minute while Astrit Selmani doubled the advantage ten minutes later. Sagiv Yehezkel blasted in Beer Sheva’s third goal before the end of the first half while Hemed scored his first of two as he put in a rebound in the 49th minute. Roie Gordana scored a left footed stunner five minutes later and Hemed added his second of the game to wrap up the big victory.
“We continued doing some very good things that we had begun when we played Maccabi Haifa,” Beer Sheva coach Elyaniv Barda said. “This game we saw the balls go into the goal as we continued playing with the principles that we had developed. The last match was tough but it gave the players belief going forward.”
“This was very unpleasant,” Tel Aviv coach Slobodan Drapic said. “This isn’t the first time that I’ve been blown out here and we now have to know how to lift our spirits. I am always trying to do new things but right now nothing seems to be working.”
Hapoel Haifa overwhelmed Hapoel Hadera 3-0 to take the points and the victory at Sammy Ofer Stadium. Elie Peretz was able to draw a first half penalty against the run of play and while Gidoni Kanuk missed the spot kick he pounced on the rebound to give Roni Levy’s squad a 1-0 lead. Tomer Yosefi scored in his debut for the Carmel Reds in the 72nd minute as Liran Sardel sent a scorcher from outside of the box to finish off the win.
“We had some moments in this game that we were not playing our best and there is what to improve,” Haifa coach Roni Levy said. “But we knew how to make sure to win the game and now we have won two games in a row after a long time. The team is still not at its best but I am sure that this will come in time.”
“The result really doesn’t reflect this game,” Hadera bench boss Asaf Nimni explained. “We have to figure out where our issues are and we have plenty of those. We have some areas of our attacking game which are not bad but we can’t seem to finish. We are doing our best to find players that will strengthen our play.”
Maccabi Netanya and Bnei Sakhnin played to a goalless draw as the hosts lost Eitan Azulay to a red card in the 54th minute but the diamond city was able to hold on as the sides split the points.
“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t take advantage of the situation when they were down to 10-men,” Sakhnin coach Kobi Refuah said. “It’s not enough that we controlled the pace of play as something was missing and it’s not good enough to get to where we want to be. Sakhnin needs to know how to win games especially in a situation like this.”
“I want to apologize to the fans for the first half performance,” Netanya bench boss Ron Kuzuk began. “The fans cheered us on and we did not pay them back. In the second half we played irresponsibly and we will need to strengthen the squad in the upcoming transfer window. We need to bring in new energy with new players.”
Kiryat Shemona slipped by Bnei Reineh 1-0 as Yadin Lugosi scored the lone goal of the game as the northerners not only collected the 3-points but they were able able to move out of the relegation zone as well.
“This was my most important win,” Kiryat Shemona coach Nir Berkovic said. “This team deserves to play in the championship playoffs but the main goal is to stay in the league.”
“We allowed Kiryat Shemona to come back to life,” Reineh coach Sharon Mimer explained. “That is something that we did not want to happen. We weren’t able to do the little things well enough and everything has been tough. We need to strengthen the club so we can play better.”