Half the season is behind them, but for Maccabi Tel Aviv "Shachar" the road to maintaining the "Yellow" hegemony in the national Under-19 Premiere League has just begun
As the flagship of the largest football youth division in Israel, the reputation of Maccabi Tel Aviv's Under-19 squad "Shachar" precedes them everywhere they play. And that's why they are always expected to stay on top. After two seasons of looking down at the rest of the league, head coach Amir Turgeman's charges started out this season in unpredictable fashion. After taking a healthy 10 points from their first four matches they then proceeded to lose their next three, conceding a worrisome ten goals along the way. As is often the case with sides having a bad run of form, it was the defence that brought Maccabi "Shachar" back to their senses. Three consecutive 1-0 victories in matchweeks eight to ten improved their points total and went some way to shoring up their goal difference.
Matchweek 11 brought another 0-1 result, but this time with Maccabi "Shachar" at the wrong end of the equation. The loss at Kiryat Shalom training ground to Bnei Yehuda put an end to their three-match winning run, but it didn't take the wind out of their sails. They then climbed to the number two spot in the table with consecutive wins against Ashdod FC (2-1) and Hapoel Jerusalem (5-0), improving their goal difference in the process.
The goal-scoring chore at the club is shared by a number of players. Dor Jan, in his second year at with the Under-19s, is approaching the halfway mark of the season with seven goals, about the same rate he achieved in his first year which he ended with a total of 15. Guy Cohen finished the half term in fine form and has six goals to his credit. Asaf Madar, who returned last summer after a loan spell last season at Hapoel Ra'anana, has three goals in two early season matches.
The race for this season's championship of the nation Under-19 Premiere League looks particularly difficult in light of the good form of Maccabi Haifa. The last matchweek of the first half of the season saw Maccabi Tel Aviv "Shachar" play away at Maccabi Haifa trailing the leaders in third place by eight points. Guy Aviv gave them an early advantage which lasted until the dying moments of the match, when Haifa's Dor Hoogie netted a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time to cruelly thwart Maccabi' attempt to close the gap.
Despite "Shachar"'s disappointment, the battle for the championship is far from over and they have the entire second half of the season to capture the top spot. Tomorrow they'll start their campaign to maintain their status as the country's leading youth club with an away match at Beitar Tubruk.