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Maccabi Haifa closes in on championship

CM 24/05/2021

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Maccabi Haifa inched closer to the Israeli Premier League title with a convincing 2-0 win over Ashdod SC on Sunday night at Sammy Ofer Stadium by the Carmel Mountain.
With a four-point lead over Maccabi Tel Aviv and just two games remaining, the victory moved the Greens ever so close to clinching their first Israel League championship since the 2010/11 season, when Elisha Levy coached the side to the title.
Just seconds after a penalty for Haifa was called off by Israeli international referee Orel Grinfeld, Nikita Rukavytsya took matters into his own hands as the league’s leading goal-scorer finished off an Omer Atzily assist to give Barak Bachar’s squad a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute.
Godsway Donio doubled the advantage in the 75th minute when he put away a brilliant pass by Tjraon Chery to seal the win and give Haifa three points. A win midweek at Ironi Kiryat Shmona coupled with a Maccabi Tel Aviv draw or loss at Ashdod will give the Greens the championship.
“We need one more win to complete our mission,” said Bachar. “This was one more step in a long season and we have to do it. We had a very good first half and while we weren’t as good in the second half we were still very efficient in our play. The squad has done a great job this year and has matured along the way.”
Ashdod coach Ran Ben Shimon explained his team’s lag in pace.
“We weren’t able to adapt quickly enough to the pace of play at the start of the game and we were very weak in the first half,” said Ben Shimon. “We were better in the second half, but we didn’t create enough chances. The team that needed to win, won.”

Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv kept pace with the table leader as it blanked Maccabi Petah Tikva 3-0 thanks to a trio of second-half goals to take the points at the Moshava Stadium.
After a dry first half, Eduardo Guerrero latched onto a Dor Peretz through-ball and elegantly chipped it over a helpless Arik Yanko to give Patrick van Leeuwen’s squad a 1-0 advantage.
Six minutes later Dan Bitton sent a red-hot Itay Shechter on his way to take a 2-0 lead, but just minutes later had to be stretchered off due to an injury.
Peretz put the finishing touches on the victory when he scored a well-deserved goal from in close following an Eylon Almog effort in the 78th minute to keep the yellow-and-blue alive in the championship race with just two contests left in the season.
“We came into the game with the goal to win,” Van Leeuwen began. “We had chances at the beginning, but we couldn’t score.However, in the second half we corrected our mistakes and scored three goals. The [championship] isn’t in our hands but we came here to do the job and we have another game in a couple of days. I’m happy with the result and how the players looked.”
Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon noted that his club still has what to fight for.
“We are battling for fourth place and we control our destiny,” said Luzon.” We have a money-time game coming up against Beersheba and if we win we will earn our place in European competition. We were in the game until the 60th minute and it was an even match, but unfortunately Maccabi scored on its first real opportunity.”
Down south, Hapoel Beersheba just got by Kiryat Shmona 3-2 thanks to a David Keltjens 99th-minute winner deep into injury time to snatch the points and keep its chances alive for a European qualification place.
Elton Acolaste opened the scoring in the 25th minute to give Beersheba a 1-0 lead, but Roie Kehat scored from the penalty spot just before the break to head into halftime knotted up at 1-1.
A Josue penalty in the 55th minute gave Roni Levy’s squad a 2-1 lead, but Eugen Ansah came through with a massive goal in the 78th minute to once again level the score.
However, Keltjens played hero in the 99th minute to give Beeersheba the points at the death when he beat Dziugas Bartkus inside the box.
“We deserved the late goal because we had so many chances,” said Beersheba bench boss Levy. “Sometimes these things go your way and the fans deserved it after so many tough days in the south of the country. We knew that a win would give us a chance for Europe and we have a very tough test on Wednesday against Petah Tikva.”
Kiryat Shmona coach Kobi Refuah was critical of the officiating following the game.
“The referee added seven minutes and the goal came in the 99th, why?” asked Refuah. “The first half was terrific, we had so many opportunities, but that’s how it goes sometimes, it’s disappointing. I’m proud of the guys and we will continue on.”
In related news, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv will prepare to do battle in the Israel State Cup final, which will be played next week at Bloomfield Stadium. The yellow-and-blue advanced to the title match after disposing of Maccabi Haifa 2-0 while Hapoel Tel Aviv needed penalties to get by Leumit League outfit Beitar Tel Aviv/Bat Yam 1-1 (7-6 on penalties).

Source: Jerusalem Post

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