Maccabi lose 2-0 to Hapoel Haifa for their first defeat since last November
Tonight Maccabi Tel Aviv registered their first defeat since November 24th of last year, losing 2-0 to Hapoel Haifa at "Sammy Ofer" Stadium. It was the team's third visit to the brand-new venue, but after a draw against Beitar Jerusalem and a victory over Maccabi Haifa, for Maccabi it was not third time lucky as they suffered only their third league defeat of the 2014/15 season. The first goal was scored by forward Maharan Lala in the 35th minute. Defender Tadas Kijanskas added Haifa's second five minutes from time. Maccabi Tel Aviv saw several chances to get back in the match come to nothing and ultimately were unable to conjure up a goal for only the second time in a league encounter this year, finishing second best for the first time in 2015.
In what might have been Maccabi's third victory over Hapoel Haifa in all competitions, it was the home side that started with more ambition, with veteran midfielder Steven Cohen hitting the woodwork early on. At the other end Hapoel Haifa's defence remained determined and Maccabi's only chance came from a Haifa defender's deflected clearance off captain Sheran Yeini that nearly went in. By contrast the home side, under new head coach Tal Banin, continued to counter attack and on 35 minutes ultimately succeeded when striker Mahran Lala first saw his shot deflected by keeper Barak Levy but slammed the rebound in off the woodwork. Moments later Maccabi midfielder Eran Zahavi struck hard at the goal, but Haifa's Czech keeper Premysl Kovar was there to stop it.
After the break, Maccabi head coach Pako Ayestaran sent on some fresh legs in the form of midfielders Gili Vermouth and Dor Micha for midfielder Mahran Radi and forward Eden Ben Basat. The two substitutes nearly restored parity after combining for a final shot by Vermouth that Kovar deflected. Defender Eytan Tibi was the next in line to try his luck, followed by Zahavi whose long-range effort was once again stopped by the Czech goalkeeper. But with Maccabi putting on the pressure, it was the home side that got their second when Lithuanian defender Tadas Kijanskas headed in a corner five minutes from time. Maccabi winger Tal Ben Chaim made one last effort at getting a consolation goal, but it only got worse as January's player of the month, midfielder Nikola Mitrovic, got sent off in the dying moments for an exchange of words with the referee. The tie ended 2-0 for one of the more surprising results of the 2014/15 Premier League season. Maccabi now hold on to a slender one-point lead at the top of the Israeli Premier League table. On Wednesday they will head north for the replay of their quarter final first leg tie against second placed Ironi Kiryat Shmona.