Football Israel Ligat Ha’al Round 9 November 22-24 2014

Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-2 Hapoel Beer Sheva

In an entertaining affair the Reds picked up all three points at Bloomfield Stadium after a controversial injury time penalty was awarded and converted by Gili Vermut. Hapoel Tel Aviv took a 2-0 lead on goals by Harmony Ikande with a laser beam of a shot and captain Shai Abutbul with a free kick special. Howverem Maor Bozaglo scored a brace in the 2nd half giving Beer Sheva life but was short lived as referee Eli Hachmon pointed to the spot late in the game to give Tel Aviv the opportunity to take the victory.

Ashdod 1-0 Maccabi Haifa

Haifa came out listless again as they gave one of their worst performances of the season allowing an own goal late in the game by Marcos Madera “Miguel” to give Ashdod and coach Nir Klinger the win. Alexander Davidov’s 82nd minute free kick was directed into the goal by struggling midfielder Michel and that was all the port city side needed to collect the 3 points. Maccabi Haifa have struggled all season long under Serbian head coach Aleksander Stanoyvich and their miserable play continued yet another game. With very little creativity the Haifa midfielders including Hen Ezra & Ruben Rayos were unable to supply the ball to the strikers Alon Turgeman and Shimon Abuhetzira letting most of the match play in the middle of the pitch with few chances on either side.

Maccabi Netanya 1-0 Hapoel Raanana

Netanya players may not have collected their salaries but they took the victory anyway! As Netanya supported called for Yossi Mizrachi resignation Shimon Harush placed a perfect header into the Raanana goal to take the win!

Hapoel Haifa 1-1 Hapoel Petach Tikva

Haifa striker Ma’aran Lala is hot as he knocked in another goal for the home side to open up the scoring at Sammy Ofer Stadium. However, a terrific run by Omri Altman paved the way for Liroie Tziri’s first goal for apetavh Tikva in the 72nd minute and gave the clubs a split of the points.

Maccabi Petach Tikva 0-0 Hapoel Akko

Few chances littered this matchup as the sides came up scoreless giving coaches Ran Ben Shimon of Petach Tikva and Alon Harazi’s a point a piece.

Football Israel Podcast November 17 2014 Israel Defeats Bosnia 3-0

Right click here to download the Football Israel Podcast from November 17, 2014

Roy Jankelowitz, reporter for Israel Sport and the man behind the fantastic Facebook Page HaShishit B’Europa joined me on the Football Israel Podcast to discuss Israel’s big 3-0 victory over Bosnia in EURO 2016 Qualifying! Israel tops group 2 with 9 points in 3 matches!

Make sure to tune in and check us out on iTunes!

Israel Tops in Group 9 For 9

Well it couldn’t have been easier for Israel winning in remarkable fashion over a Bosnia team that was just at the World Cup in Brazil. Up 2-0 at halftime followed by a red card minutes into the second half was all Israel needed to dispatch FIFA’s 26th ranked country in front of over 30K rabid fans!

There were tons of terrific runs by Israel dominating play for long stretches of time with Omer Damari causing chaos for the Bosnia defenders. Bibras Natcho showed everyone exactly why he is Israel’s MVP and worthy of playing on the UEFA Champions League with CSKA. It was Natcho who created anarchy for the Bosnia squad early on setting the stage for a performance of the ages by Israel. 

Nifty passing by Eran Zahavi & the much maligned Gili Vermut gave Israel its first home goal of the Euro 2016 qualifiers proving all of the skeptics wrong. This also included yours truly calling for an in form Lior atefaelov to start in his place and play a more aggressive style of football.

But aggressive is what we all got. Israel had its flank defenders Omri Ben Harush & Eyal Meshumar continuously going up and down the sidelines cheating offensively and giving up the occasional Bosnian chance but it was those players that gave Bosnia the track meet they were not prepared for.

Playing without a striker the Bosnia midfielders has no one to look for, no target man and looked lost before the game even started. Even though there were a number of long ball chances for Bosnia which caught the Israel defense and central midfielders Eitan Tibi & Tal Ben Haim flat footed “Mazal” luck was on their side.

At the stroke of halftime Israel took a 2-0 lead with Eran Zahavi again dishing off the perfect helper to Omer Damari and sending the crowd into even more of a delirious state!

If things couldn’t have gotten any worse for Bosnia they had the honor of collecting a red card only minutes into half number 2 as Toni Sunjic headed for the showers after yanking down Damari right outside the box. 

But to seal the deal was it not fitting for Eran Zahavi, Israel’s all star playing at home for Maccabi Tel Aviv scoring the third and final goal of a wonderful night of football, possibly the best in Israel in over two decades.

With nine points Israel is prime position to qualify at worst case for the Euro 2016 playoffs in Paris, but leading the group, why should they settle for just that. As Bosnia coach Safet Susic said Israel dominated in all the parameters of the match against players who play in much better leagues than most of the Israeli players.

For the first time in history Israel has won their first three qualifiers of any one campaign. This is looking like a tourney for the ages and one that coach Eli Gutman can send a small thank you to Hamas & former Israel FA head Avi Luzon. Why? For pushing off the Belgium match to March which should have been the opening game of the campaign. That’s why.

Gutman paid tribute to all of the players who did not play and only wished he had another game next week. He knows that some of those players will have to play at some point as the road is still very, very long.

Sure Israel will have to play Wales in Haifa and Belgium in Jerusalem back to back in late March but both games will be at home which will be the true test to see if Israel really are contenders or pretenders. Until then Eli Gutman can rest easy and know that there is a reason why he is the coach and we are the press.

The Keys to Victory For Israel vs Bosnia

Israel have a mighty test against Bosnia on Sunday night but one that is not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination. Sure Bosnia is playng with out star strikers Eden Dzeko of Manchester City and Vedad Ibisevic from Stutgart and nevertheless should be a tough opponent. However Israel comes into this game with a good feeling not only round the squad itself but also in its environs. 

After collecting a quick 6 points in October with away wins over Cyprus & Andora, Israel will face its first home test which will thankfully be in the brand spanking new Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa. In prior years the National Team would have been preparing to play their qualifiers in the concrete monster called Ramat Gan Stadium where the seats were about 3 miles from the pitch and the action. 

One could say that the atmosphere at Ramat Gan was well, non existent. This time around that will be a totally different story. Finally with a state of the art facility rivaling Europe’s best arenas, 30k strong Israel supporters will make their noise heard and felt reverberating throughout the stadium. 

For the first time Israel will have a true home field advantage against on of the world’s top teams. With three of the five Euro 2016 Qualifiers being played in Haifa, while the other two at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, Israel should be able to rank right up there with the best fans in Europe and create a terrifying cauldron for the visitors in each occasion.

Israel also has a tremendous amount of depth on their roster with multiple players in multiple positions that could challenge for eachother for playing time on any given night. Scorers galore in Omer Damari, Tomer Hemed, Itay Schecter, Tal Ben Haim, Gili Vermut, Eran Zahavi and more could be the hero of the match.

Multifaceted midfielders in Bibras Natcho & Lior Refaelov to name two can change the game in an instant and have proven to be real threats for the European clubs game in game out. A steady defensive corps led by the 32-year old captain Tal Ben Haim along with all star Eitan Tibi provide the steady presence that will allow Eyal Meshumar & Omri Ben Harush the ability to race up and down the wings.

The talent is tremendous as well as flexible giving coach Eli Gutman the tools to be Abel to change the flow of the game on a dime and alter the look of his side with a substitute or two.

Which brings us to coach Gutman. This campaign is his second as National team boss and with experience being on his side this time around that should be an advantage for the wily veteran coach. What he learned from the World Cup qualifying tournament will serve him well be it holding onto a lead late into a match (which his side didn’t do against Portugal) or the ability to put away less talented sides than his own. 

Not giving up two points and settling for one will be one of the biggest lessons that Gutman found out along the way. Don’t take a draw when you can score win. Make sure to collect maximum points at home and draw on the road. That’s the principal that Gutman should go by each match. 

Which means he MUST get out of the gates quickly against Bosnia and not sit back and wait for the match to come to him. Israel has a talented side and one that can play with the best of them. We have seen it and they know that they can do it.

Gutman must allow his side to play attacking football especially at home in front of 30k rabid supporters. Playing for a draw will be a colossal mistake and one that Israel can’t afford to make.

They must attempt to take the full 3pts for a total of 9pts after 3 matches. This will put them in a perfect position going into the next round of matches in March which will feature Wales and Belgium visiting the Holy Land. 

If Israel can play aggressive football along with responsible defense in front of their home fans there should be no way Israel doesn’t walk out of Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa without the victory and in prime position to qualify for their first major tournament since the 1970 Mexico World Cup.

Cheeky Backheel Football Israel Podcast November 11 2014

Right click here to download The Cheeky Backheel Podcast from November 11, 2014

Roy Jankelowitz, reporter for Israel Sport and the man behind the fantastic Facebook Page HaShishit B’Europa joined me on the Cheeky Backheel Podcast to talk Football Israel!

The Sports Rabbi & Roy talk about the Derby fallout, the past weekend’s matches & look forward to the Israel National Team playing against Bosnia in EURO 2016 qualifying this coming Sunday!

Make sure to tune in and check us out on iTunes!

Sabras Israelis Abroad Week of November 4-10

Here’s a roundup of Israeli footballers playing abroad and how they fared the past weekend! Congratulations to Lior Refaelov on winning this week’s Sabra Award!!

Check out Lior’s goals!

Lior Refaelov- Belgian Jupiler League, Club Brugge- SCORED 3 goals in 4-0 win over Kopenhagen & played 90 minutes in 5-0 win over Westerlo

Omer Damari- Austrian Bundesliga, Austria Wien- SCORED 2 goals & played 90 minutes in 3-2 win over Rapid Wien

Sintiyahu Sollalich- Slovenia League, Maribor- Played 73 minutes in 3-1 win over Krka

Toto Tamuz- Romania Liga 1, Petrolul- SCORED a goal, picked up a yellow card & played 86 minutes in 3-0 win over Universitatea Cluj

Monas Dabbur- Swiss Super League, Grasshoppers- SCORED 2 goals & played 90 minutes in 3-0 win over St. Gallen

Shay Hadad- Romania Liga 1, Petrolul- played in 1st half 32 minutes in 3-0 win over Universitatea Cluj

Eyal Golasa- Greece Super League, PAOK- Played 90 minutes in 2-1 loss to Panathinaikos

Beram Kayal- Scottish Premiership, Celtic- Did not play in 1-1 draw with Astra in UEFA EL action & did not play in 2-1 win over Aberdeen

Nir Biton- Scottish Premiership, Celtic- Did not play in 1-1 draw with Astra in UEFA EL action

Rami Gershon- Belgian Jupiler League, Gent- Played 90 minutes in 2-0 loss to Anderlecht

Kenny Saief- Belgian Jupiler League, Gent- Played 2nd half in 2-0 loss to Anderlecht

Tomer Hemed- Spain La Liga, Almeria- was a 68th minute sub in 2-1 loss to Barcelona

Dan Mori- Eredivisie, Vitesse- Did not play in 0-0 draw with Feyenoord

Dudu Biton- Slovenia League, Maribor- Played 70 minutes in 3-1 win over Krka

Itay Schecter- France Ligue 1, Nantes- Was an 83rd minute sub in 2-1 win over Caen

Ben Sahar- Eredivisie, Willem II- Played 1st half of 3-2 loss to ADO Den Haag

Bibras Natcho- Russian Premier League, CSKA Moscow- ASSISTED on 2 goals in 2-1 win over Manchester City in UEFA CL action & Played 90 minutes in 1-0 loss to Dinamo Moskva

Tal Ben Haim- England Championship, Reading- Played 90 minutes in 1-0 win over Reading

You Think You’ve Seen it All Until You Haven’t Maccabi Tel Aviv Version 14.15

Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-1 Maccabi Netanya

It’s quite amazing how sports work. You really never know what is going to happen at a sporting event. Sure you can expect that team “A” will defeat team “B”, or player “X” will be the star of the show but you can never expect to see a fan coming out of the stands to attack a player which we witnessed last week. This week it was something different. How about Maccabi Tel Aviv’s captain, defender Sheran Yeini having to play goal the last quarter hour or so making a number of quality saves to preserve 3-1 victory over their rivals from Netanya.

On paper this was a game that Tel Aviv was the far superior side, but nonetheless Netanya came into the match swinging and took a shock 1-0 lead on a quick restart near the Maccabi goal as Nigerian Larry Kayode pounced on the opportunity to score his 4th goal in 3 games. Tel Aviv were playing without star Eran Zahavi who was suspended due to his red card after he retaliated when being attacked by Hapoel Tel Aviv hooligan “Fuad”, however it didn’t seem to stop the Tel Aviv attack.

Rada Prica Celebrates-Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv website

Rada Prica Celebrates-Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv website

Pako Ayestaran decided to start both Rada Prica & Eden Ben Bassat along with Tal Ben Chaim and he was rewarded as Prica scored a pair of goals and Ben Basat & Ben Chaim were very active all game long. Prica’s first strike was a header from a Nikola Mitrovic cross and his 2nd goal of the night was the club’s third where he smashed the ball home after a Netanya defensive error. Eitan Tibi also scored picking up his first mark of the year after heading in a Ben Chaim cross late in the first half.

Geek Sheran Yeini-Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv website

Geek Sheran Yeini-Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv website

But the fun began late in the match when Juan Pablo who has been suspect this season misjudged a Netanya break and came out of the goal swatting away the ball with his hands outside of the box. That resulted in a red card and forced Maccabi to play Sheran Yeini in goal. The yellow and blue had used it’s last substitute forcing the need to replace Juan Pablo with a player already on the pitch and Yeini took the gloves and ‘keeper kit as he had done a few years back. He made some terrific saves in helping Maccabi take the 3 points and stay neck & beck with Kiryat Shemona who they play in 2 weeks.

It was noticeable that Netanya was able to break down the Tel Aviv defense on numerous occasions with Larry Kayode leading the way most times. When asked about this after the match coach Ayestaran said that he looks at defense as a team effort and just not the back four defenders. He enjoys and appreciates the offense his team produces as he has mentioned in the past and would rather see a 5-2 win rather than a 1-0 victory.

While that may be true he still has to be a bit concerned about the lack of discipline his ‘keeper and the defenders seem to lack on occasion. It also has to be worrisome that Kayode constantly was a threat breaking through the backline time after time.

With Kiryat Shemona away on deck for Tel Aviv they should pay close attention to the speed of both David Manga & Rogers Kola. Manga leads the league with 7 assists and has been a threat time after time. But it’s not just Manga who contributed 2 assists last match on corners that resulted in goals (which is yet another thing Maccabi has got to watch), it’s Roie Kehat, Mindaugus Panka, Ofir Mizrachi, Kassio Fernandes & keeper Guy Haimov. Plus you’ve got a terrific young coach in Barak Bachar on the sidelines Kiryat Shemona will be Tel Aviv’s biggest title threat this season as they are still undefeated.

Tal Ben Chaim in action! Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv website

Tal Ben Chaim in action! Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv website

It should be an interesting couple of weeks preparing for this important match. Will it decide the title as one reporter asked last night to Pako? No, definitely not. Will it potentially be able to play mind games should they lose, certainly and that’s something I’m sure Pako doesn’t want his players to have to deal with.

Football Israel Ligat Ha’al Round 8 November 8-10 2014

Hapoel Raanana 0-1 Hapoel Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv picked up the 3 points in an unconvincing win against Raanana at the Netanya stadium. Shoval Gozlan scored for the Reds as the club heads to the Israel FA court to decide the fate of the Tel Aviv derby that was abandoned after the 1st half.

Beitar Jerusalem 0-1 Hapoel Haifa

Beitar did everything to win and to score except actually wining and scoring. In a match that was throughly dominated Beitar just couldn’t find the back of the net as Haifa stole the victory in the 94th minute on a beautiful goal by Mahran Lala to snatch the 3 points. The yellow and black had tons of opportunities but either they just couldn’t finish be it Lidor Cohen, Danny Preda or Hanan Maman or the Haifa ‘keeper Premysl Kovar made save after save. The home supporters were getting a bit antsy as the minutes ticked away but they stood in stunned silence as Zev Haimovitz couldn’t close down the oncoming Lala as he placed the ball perfectly into the top left hand corner of the goal.

Hapoel Beer Sheva 2-1 Ashdod

After a dry first half of play Beer Sheva striker Shlomi Arbeitman struck for The home side in the 67th minute and Maor Bozaglo added his third of the season a few minutes later. Ashdod youngster Niv Zrihen broke the shutout in the dying minutes of the game to get the visitors within one but it was a too little too late.

Maccabi Haifa 1-0 Hapoel Akko

After four straight losses Haifa finally got off the slide and picked up a win at home. Shimon Abuheitzera was the goal scorer coming on the 2nd half of the match and secured 3 points for coach Aleksander Stanoyvich and a bit of breathing room for the club going into the international break. For Akko another inconsistent performance as coach Alon Harazi’s future remains uncertain.

Hapoel Petach Tikva 1-3 Kiryat Shemona

In a match played in Ashdod due to the Moshava stadium pitch winterization Kiryat Shemona picked up three goals all from corner kicks in the win. Shachar Hirsch scored to open the scoring for Petach Tikva but Kassio Fernandes drew the club’s even a few minuets later on a David Manga corner. Rodgers Kola added the second again off a Manga corner and Hassan Abu Zeid put the ball in his own goal for the third K8 marker. Barack Bachar and a Kiryat Shemona continue to lead the table as their next match will be in the northern city against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Derby Violence Cheeky Backheel Football Israel Podcast November 4 2014

Right click here to download The Cheeky Backheel Podcast from November 4, 2014

Roy Jankelowitz, reporter for Israel Sport and the man behind the fantastic Facebook Page HaShishit B’Europa joined me on the Cheeky Backheel Podcast to talk Football Israel!

The Sports Rabbi & Roy discuss the Tel Aviv Derby Violence between Maccabi & Hapoel Tel Aviv. We also talk about Maccabi Haifa and their recent problems along with making our picks for the upcoming weekend matches.

Make sure to tune in and check us out on iTunes!

Yitzhak Rabin Tel Aviv Derby Violence And Israel

I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out. That’s an age old adage that can unfortunately describe the events of last’ nights Tel Aviv Derby. Football Israel suffered a big black eye from the actions that took place between Maccabi & Hapoel at Bloomfield Stadium.

At first look there are a number of places to lay the blame for the utter chaos and disgrace that plagued one of the hotly contested matches of the year. From a Hapoel Tel Aviv shirtless hoodlum going onto the field of play to attack Maccabi Tel Aviv and former Reds player Eran Zahavi, to the referee Roie Reinschreiber issuing a red card to Zahavi for protecting himself to the lack of responsible security staff. However, we must look at the core of the problem to understand why this nonsense has to contaminate the sports landscape.
Sure all the happenings mentioned above contributed to the ultimate end of the match but unfortunately we live in a society that accepts violence as a norm and not as an exception. But where does that come from and why? Unfortunately we don’t need to look to far…

It certainly could be from the lack of discipline taught to children from an early age, be it at home or at school. It could be the continuous lack of harsh punishments handed out, or it could be that respect is a word that once existed in the Israeli lexicon but not anymore.

The Tel Aviv Derby is always one of the match’s that is circled on every fans calendar. It’s one of the must go to games, where the two sides can express their support for either Maccabi or Hapoel. During thick or thin, good years and bad, the usual football match rules are chucked out the window as any one of the two sides can take the Derby and bragging rights until the next one arrives.

It was clear from the outset that Hapoel who hosted this Derby would have to have plenty of security, and they did with over 600 security personnel costing upwards of 300K NIS. But it was clear early on that security were too busy watching the match and the unfortunate goings on and not the supporter’s camps to ensure a safe sports experience that would be enjoyed by all fans.

The referee Roie Reinschreiber, a good one but by no means the best available was in charge of the match and seemed to lose the players early on by not putting down a heavier foot on fouls and cautions. Hapoel Tel Aviv opened the scoring on a nice goal by Moshe Ohayon and then Eran Zahavi tied it up on a 22nd minute penalty.

After the goal, Zahavi made his usual shooting celebration towards the Hapoel Tel Aviv fans and was issued a yellow card. Ten more minutes went by until Zahavi was going to take a corner kick, but before he could get there a bare chested Hapoel fan ran onto the pitch and attacked Zahavi forcing the star player to defend himself. It took more than 10 seconds for security to wake up and tackle the guy even though they were just a few feet away, as seen in the accompanying video above.

The result was a red card to Zahavi which fueled the now irate Maccabi fans, players and coaching staff as Jordi Cryuff, Maccabi’s technical director as well as Eyal Berkovic, the former Premier League star playing a similar role for Hapoel discussed what should be done.

After a lengthy delay it was decided that the match would continue on in what was a disastrous decision.

And the rest they say is history. After a hard Tal Ben Haim foul and subsequent yellow card a number of Maccabi fans ran across the pitch in an attempt to get to the Hapoel side and were almost successful (!) as security again fell asleep at the wheel. Bottles and garbage came flying out of the Hapoel Tel Aviv sections 4 & 5 as the players left the field to yelling, screaming and a total lack of control.

Which sadly represents society in the larger picture.

Since last evening every Tom, Dick & Harry politician in Israel is commenting on what happened at the Derby last night. They are all giving their Shekel and a Half criticism and thoughts of what should be done.

“Close the league”, said one. “Hand down radius matches”, said another. “The perpetrators should be thrown into jail and punished to the fullest extent of the law”, crowed another. But in reality they should look at themselves in the mirror and understand that they are at fault.

Where have they been during the ongoing Arab violence in and around Jerusalem since this summer’s war. Constant rock throwing, attacks on the light rail, unrest on the Temple Mount. Where is the government? Why do they not act? Isn’t this a more major concern then a football match?

Sure, it’s easy for the politicos to get in their 2 minutes of fame when everyone is talking about the Derby. But no one wants to look at the true root of the problem. When government officials along with security and police personnel allow what is going on in Jerusalem, then no one should be shocked at what happens at a highly charged football match.
Look at the education system. There are issues of violence in the schools and at home that don’t get dealt with swiftly and succinctly. The politicians remain silent. Every single one of the 120 Knesset members should be appalled!

Haven’t we learned anything from past experiences?

Was it not 19 years ago today when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by a citizen of Israel? Have we not done our homework as a nation, as a country? Can’t we do better?

Sure blame is placed on this and on that. The ref should have never shown Zahavi a red card. The referee association should have chosen a more experienced official for this match and the security staff should have been more with the program but if we don’t act on a national level how can we expect basic level entertainment to be a safe and sound environment?

This is the core of the problem. As Eyal Berkovic said last night, “Is this war? This is a game, not war!” And he’s 110% correct. Could have a person been killed or severely injured last night? Certainly, and this can still happen if the country doesn’t get its act together and handle real threats and dangers first and foremost.

Once the appropriate authorities get that under control, football will follow suit.