Maccabi Tel Aviv moved to within one victory of winning the Israel Premier League Ligat Janpinka championship after defeating Hapoel Hadera 2-0 at the Netanya Stadium. Second half goals by Avi Rikan and Aaron Schoenfeld as Yonatan Cohen picked up a pair of assists, helped Maccabi open up the Championship Playoff Round on the right foot while also making a bit of Israeli football history in the process. The yellow-and-blue were the first team to take advantage of the new VAR Virtual Assistant Referee technology as the system helped determine that Hadera’s George Fochive should be sent off with red card right before halftime after committing a foul on Rikan. The aforementioned Rikan then went on to score Maccabi’s first goal of the game in the 48th minute thanks to a Yonatan Cohen assist. American born Aaron Schoenfeld found the back of the goal to double the lead in the 84th minute as he added an insurance marker to wrap up the contest. Next Matchday, Maccabi will be able to secure the League title with a home victory over Maccabi Haifa, however that will be two weeks away as this coming weekend will feature Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Bnei Yehuda surprised Maccabi Haifa 2-0 at Sammy Ofer Stadium, sending Marko Balbul’s team to their first loss in twelve league games. Jakub Sylvestr scored a brace with the first goal coming off a header in the 24th minute thanks to a Dolev Haziza corner kick. Things turned from bad to worse for the Carmel Greens when VAR came into play in the 41st minute. The Virtual Assistant Referee determined that Ernest Mabouka should be sent off for a foul in the box and a penalty should be awarded to Bnei Yehuda as Sylvestr duly converted the spot kick for a 2-0 lead which held up for the balance of the contest.
Hapoel Tel Aviv dumped Ashdod 5-1, taking advantage of an extra man for the majority of the game. After Issoumaila Lingane was booked with a straight red card in the 23rd minute following a reckless tackle on Nir Lax, the Reds poured on the offense. Nerijus Valksis scored his first goal upon his return to the Israel Premier League just before the break which was then followed up by second half strikes from Ahmed Abed, Ramzi Sfouri, Claudemir and Idan Cohen. Ashdod pulled a goal back in the 87th minute by Romain Habran but it was too little too late as Koby Refuah’s squad collected the 3 points and the victory.
Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa played to a dull goalless draw at Sammy Ofer Stadium as Nissan Yehezkel manned the capital city squad’s sidelines due to head coach Nir Klinger having had a medical procedure a few days earlier that will most probably keep him out for the rest of the season.
Hapoel Raanana and Bnei Sahknin drew 2-2 at Ramat Gan Stadium as the side’s split the points in an entertaining and dramatic battle. Menchem Koretzky’s Raanana controlled the pace of play early on as Kayes Ganem beat Sakhnin keeper Muhamed Kandil in the 22nd minute to take a 1-0 lead. The visitor’s found the equalizer in the 55th minute via a Shlomi Azulay penalty after Yarden Cohen pulled down Ihab Genaim in the box and then took the lead 14 minutes later thanks to Muhamed Calibat who slammed home a Mahran Radi corner kick. However, Raanana wasn’t down and out as they drew even in the 81st minute when Yoav Tomer scored into the far corner of the Sakhnin goal allowing each squad to take home a hard earned point.
Hapoel Beer Sheva defeated Maccabi Netanya 1-1 as Miguel Vitor scored in his first game back since returning from an injury. The central defender who had been an integral part of the club’s success over the past few years scored off a Maor Melikson corner kick in the 58th minute to secure the 3-points for his squad.
Maccabi Petah Tikva slipped by Kiryat Shemona 1-0 as Armando Cooper scored an 84th minute goal to take the 3-points and the win.