It took almost 98 minutes, but Maccabi Tel Aviv finally found a way to break through the Hapoel Haifa defense as Djorde Jovanovic scored to give the yellow-and-blue the 1-0 win and 3-points by the skin of their teeth. Vladen Ivic’s squad had numerous chances throughout the game but it took deep into second half injury time for Jovanovic to break through. The Serbian striker took a terrific pass from Derrick Luckassen at the top of the box with his back to the goal, spun to his right and placed a perfect ball through a pair of defenders and into the far left hand corner to give Maccabi the hard earned victory.
“There is no team I’m the league that creates the amount of chances that we do,” Maccabi coach Ivic said. “The players work hard during the game and the before the game to win it. They don’t feel good when they can’t score, but this is football. They want to win the game and that is a good characteristic.”
“We didn’t begin this game well,” Roni Levy began. “They were perhaps a bit tired after the game against Maccabi tel Aviv but they got into the play and they were very serious and commuted. We had some very poor decisions as we approached the goal and we had chances that we wanted but maybe it was an experience issue.”
Maccabi Netanya defeated Ashdod 3-2 as Igor Zlatanovic scored in a brace in a barnburner of a game by the port city. Omri Gendelman headed home a Liron Rotman corner kick in the 5th minute to give the visitors the lead while Zlatanovic scored a quick pair of goals as Rotman and Shai Konstantin assisted on the brace to give Netanya a 3-0 lead ahead of the halftime break. Yakov Brihen pulled back a goal via a 71st minute penalty and Adir Levy cut the lead to just one goal in the 91st minute but it was too little, too late for the hosts as Ran Kojok’s squad wrapped up the victory.
Kojok, who took over the reins from Benny Lam is still perfect on the Netanya bench and spoke about his experience in charge so far, “I have always been appreciated at this club and I am a person that will do everything I can in my power to help. The results so far is from very hard work and the DNA of Netanya is passion. We played great near the end of the first half, but in the second half we were taught a lesson. We have to keep up with our passion, modesty and hard work as this is in our DNA in order to succeed.”
“The hole we dug for ourselves was too big,” Ashdod coach Ran Ben Shimon said. “The first half is the type that occurs once every 2-3 years. But I want to look at the positives in this game as the guys who didn’t fall apart and those who really played well in the second half.”
Hapoel Hadera and Sektzia Nes Ziona played to a dry goalless draw as the two sides split the points.
“This was a very poor games of our and I am upset for the fans that were here and those who watched in on TV,” Hadera coach Asaf Nimni said. “We were tried, we took four points this week and now we have a break to rest up and prepare for the next round of games after the World Cup. As well as we have played, I am not even looking at the idea of making it to the Championship playoffs. Our goal is to stay in the league.”
“This was a good game from us and we prepared well against a team that is very tough to play against,” Nes Ziona coach Nir Berkovic commented. “We now head to the break with a point but we were the only team here that played soccer. All in all we played well this round of games despite getting off to a rough start.”