Maccabi Tel Aviv finished off the first round of the Israeli Premier League top-six playoffs with a 2-1 loss at Bnei Sakhnin
As the Jewish festival of Passover came to a close, Maccabi Tel Aviv tried in vain to maintain the holiday spirit, losing 2-1 to a determined Bnei Sakhnin side at their Doha Stadium. Home side pressure began straight from the kick-off and with only eight minutes gone striker Mohammed Kalibat was already testing keeper Juan Pablo after getting in behind the Maccabi defences. Four minutes later Maccabi winger Tal Ben Haim made a double effort at the other end but found his opponents' defenders there to repel it. And just under the quarter hour mark Bnei Sakhnin striker Ahmed Kasum completed the flurry of early-match activity by leaping for a long ball and heading on to the Maccabi crossbar.
Just after the half hour mark striker Firas Mugrabi finally gave the home crowd at Doha Stadium something to cheer about when he threaded his way in the area between Maccabi defenders Eytan Tibi and Carlos Garcia to latch on to pass which he sliced past Juan Carlos into the net to give Bnei Sakhnin a 1-0 lead. Five minutes from the break midfielder Haled Halaula narrowly missed doubling the home side's lead when Juan Pablo leapt high to palm away his strike. At the other end Maccabi midfielder Mahran Radi also tried his luck just before the ref's half-time whistle but his effort saw the opposition keeper, Ahmad Shebel, ready to push the effort aside.
Twelve minutes after the restart Maccabi's young international winger Dor Micha set his sights on the Sakhnin goal but sliced his effort wide. Just past the hour mark a stray pass between goalkeeper and defender at the Maccabi end was picked off by Mohammed Kalibat but his final touch landed right in the arms of Juan Pablo. A far more effective Sakhnin attack came eight minutes from time when a cross back into the area from the right by midfielder Ali Ottman found on-loan striker Mohammad Ghadir, who came on for Kalibat, who struck past Juan Pablo into the upper right corner of the Maccabi net to put his side ahead 2-0. Three minutes into injury time Sakhnin defender Mor Shushan handled a ball in the area and striker Rade Prica got one back for Maccabi from the spot, but with just a minute left the visitors were unable to equalise, handing Maccabi Tel Aviv their first loss of the Israeli Premier League top-six playoffs.
This coming Saturday at 8pm Maccabi will kick off the second round of play-off matches with an away derby against municipal rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
Photographs – Nir Keider