Maccabi Tel Aviv 0-0 Hapoel Beer Sheva
Hapoel Beer Sheva came into Bloomfield and did exactly what they wanted to do. Not lose. Coach Elisha Levy had a huge smile on his face when he sauntered into the press room to face the media. One could feel Levy’s joy over not losing ground to Maccabi Tel Aviv who sit one place ahead of the southern squad in positons #2 & #3 in the Israeli Ligat Ha’Al table, two points behind Maccabi & 6 points out of first place currently occupied by Kiryat Shemona.
Playing without strong midfielder John Ogu, the Israeli Yaya Youre and Roie Gordana, Levy made sure to put forth an intelligent game plan that saw right back, defender Ben Biton take man of the match honors. Biton, who just turned 24 shut down Maccabi speedster Tal Ben Chaim who kept attacking down the left side, attempting to cut towards the goal or send the ball dangerously into the box where Israeli star Eran Zahavi would be waiting to pounce.
Very few of the Tel Aviv runs went through the center or the right side of the pitch and perhaps yellow & blue coach Pako Ayestaran should have changed to a 4-4-2 formation earlier than the 64th minute when he finally brought on striker Eden Ben Basat to pair with Zahavi up front in order to counter the ineffectiveness of his side’s offense. Unfortunately, the change didn’t help as Beer Sheva continued to clog the midfield to ensure Maccabi couldn’t get a major break to pick up the three points available on the night.
Ayestaran prefers to play with a false 9 and in this case the coveted Eran Zahavi takes that position. One can’t argue with the results as he had scored in every match except for the last two. Just behind Zahavi were the wingers, Dor Micha & the aforementioned Tal Ben Chaim with Nosa Igiebor and Nikola Mitrovic right in back of them pacing the Maccabi attack which pretty much fizzled out. Of course thanks & praise can be heaped upon Beer Sheva boss Levy for being able to come up with the perfect game plan in order to pretty much shackle Maccabi’s potent offense.
Beer Sheva sat back comfortablly with keeping the play in the midfield as much as possible and waited for a chance to counter. They also dodged a major bullet on Zahavi’s penalty that ‘keeper Austine Ejide saved by cheating off of his line. How many times have we seen Zahavi miss a penalty! This would be only the second time in his career that he would miss an attempt from the spot and both came against Hapoel Beer Sheva! That was a chance that should have changed the complexion of the game. But could’ve, should’ve & would’ve just isn’t good enough.
The real winners on the night Were Kiryat Shemona who opened up a 4 point lead over Maccabi Tel Aviv and a 6 point difference with Hapoel Beer Sheva. This was the perfect result for the table leaders, a split of the points keeping both of the squads two games behind them as we head into the thick of winter.
If Kiryat Shemona can keep up their pace they may very well come away with their second championship. Maccabi Tel Aviv is still having problems with their two top rivals losing once to Kiryat Shemona & Hapoel Beer Sheva both away and drawing last night for one out of a total of nine points. Beer Sheva boasts five out of nine, while Kiryat Shemona comes away with four out of a total of six.
One out of nine just ain’t going to cut it for Maccabi Tel Aviv if they want to Three-peat. Coach Ayestaran said after the match that Maccabi was not as good as the other two sides and that the table doesn’t lie. Sure Maccabi may have had more chances, a bigger budget and better players but at the end of the day what counts most are actual results and the table says that Maccabi is in second place, four points out of first.
Ayestaran will have to find a way to take points and wins against the top teams by the time the league enters the playoffs in a couple of months. If he can’t Maccabi will find itself looking up at Kiryat Shemona instead of down at the whole of league.