A riveting game took place in Jaffa on Saturday night, but it was Inter Tel Aviv who came away with all three points, after the 4-3 win, which increases their winning streak to three games.
The home side made a blitzing start to the match and were 3-0 up within 15 minutes. Player-manager Jerome Katz started it off with a fine taken shot from outside the box, which accurately found its way into the bottom corner. Inter were soon two up, centre-back Sam Sank, who had already had one strike cleared off the line was soon celebrating his second goal of the season after acrobatically volleying home David Schumann’s whipped cross.
The third also came in quick succession as Cedric Membrez rose highest from a James Fattal corner to brilliantly guide the ball into the net. The game could have been all but won, but Ashdod soon found their way back thanks to an Ilan Amar headed goal.
However, Inter maintained their three-goal advantage in a thrilling first half, with David Schumann expertly finishing a penalty, after Fattal had been brought down after a mazy run. The referee then evened the scores on the penalty front and Ashdod went into half time 4-2 down, with Aviv Bikhar scoring a spot kick after being fouled in the area.
At half-time, Membrez needed to be taken to hospital after a nasty clash left him with a gaping head wound, which left Inter with just no substitutes for the remainder of the game. The injury clearly affected the home side, who were somewhat shell-shocked by a quick Ashdod goal, again from Bikhar, which saw the deficit down to just one goal.
Ashdod pushed to find the equaliser, but as has been so often this season, the Inter Tel Aviv defensive unit held firm when called upon, with Brian Goldfarb in particular excelling. The win sees Inter consolidate third place in the league and gives them an outside chance of title if results go their way.
Ra’anana 1 v Jerusalem 2
The eagerly awaited top-of-the-table clash did not disappoint, with Jerusalem ultimately winning their 5th game on the bounce as long term runaway leaders Ra’anana saw their lead at the top, that had stood at 10 points over Jerusalem, whittled down to just the one point in the space of three weeks.
Going into the game near full strength, Ra’anana knew that with only four games to play after this blockbuster, a draw for the leaders would have maintained their four-point lead and put all but two hands on a maiden league title. They also knew that this would be their sternest test for their invincibles to maintain there unbeaten run and to try and go the whole season unbeaten. Jerusalem, rocked by a mini injury crisis, were forced to name two debutants amongst their substitutes.
Mordy Weiler who had been ill midweek passed a late fitness test, and was fortunately well enough to start, as Jerusalem raced out of the traps, breaking down Ra’anana straight from the kick-off. Akiva Zneimer, intercepted, and passed to Dan Cohen, whose slick pass released his twin brother Gav who took the ball to the by line and expertly crossed for Weiler to cushion his header in at the back post. 1-0 to Jerusalem with only 20 seconds on the clock!
Ra’anana were stunned by yet another quick start from Jerusalem (beating their electric start against them in the same fixture last year, by a full three seconds), and it was pretty much one-way traffic for the first 10 minutes, with both Cohens putting semi decent efforts wide. Jerusalem deservedly got a second in the 11th minute, when Zneimer picked up the ball in the middle and cutting in, let rip a 25-yard shot that gave Sapir Marom no chance, nicking the post on its way in. 2-0. Two almost became three with Sapir making an excellent stop to deny Weiler his second of the night. The half petered out, with Jerusalem on the slight ascendency, but with neither side posing any further serious threat on goal.
Jerusalem almost started the second half in a similar vein to the first. Attacking from the off, a Zneimer corner was met by Moishe Lewis who headed wide, with the goal at his mercy. Ra’anana almost hit straight back, but a tame shot after a great move was easily caught by Daniel Boerstra, only for Jerusalem to go back up and see a Zneimer shot go over the target.
After a frantic opening five minutes to the second half, Ra’anana found another gear. A great team move found Aviad Ben Meir, only to see his shot deflected behind for a corner. Ra’anana then started playing some great football, showing why they are the top dogs this year, and had another couple of half chances before Boerstra was called into action again, tipping a clever flick from the energetic Gavriel Kanichowsky round the post for another corner.
With just under quarter of an hour to go, Ra’anana’s second half display was rewarded with the goal they deserved when the ball fell kindly in the crowded box, for the league’s top scorer Ben Meir to notch his 20th goal of the season, with the impenetrable Jerusalem defense finally being breached.
With the bit between their teeth, Ra’anana went in search for the equaliser, but everything they threw at the Jerusalem goal, was lapped up by the Jerusalem defense. With a few minutes remaining, Boerstra produced the save of the game, expertly tipping another Ra’anana goal bound effort round the post.
With Ra’anana pushing everyone forward including goalkeeper Marom for the corner as the 90 minutes drew to a close, Jerusalem countered, and looked destined to score the killer third. With the Ra’anana goalkeeper in no man’s land, instead of shooting, Weiler decided to unselfishly pass the ball, however with only one defensive player behind the ball and no keeper in sight, the referee correctly called offside.
With the three minutes of time added on turning into five, Jerusalem were almost left to rue that miss, as Ra’anana had one last threat on goal, only for Dan Kosky to make the timeliest of challenges to snuff out the last chance of the game, and bring to an end Ra’anana’s very impressive unbeaten run.
Jerusalem’s joint manager, Danny Newman was full of praise for his players at the final whistle. He said: “We somehow managed to dig deep and get a competitive squad together for this game. I felt we dominated the first half, and could have put the game to bed with a great effort at the start of the second. We knew Ra’anana would come back, and to be fair, they were the stronger side in the second half. Our back four and goalkeeper kept our two-goal cushion in tact for most of the game, and raised their game further, after Ra’anana pulled themselves back into the game for a nail-biting last 15.
“With two passionate sides at the right end of the table, there were moments when things could have boiled over, but ex MSFL ref, Aron Djanogly controlled the game superbly, with the game being played out in a great competitive spirit.
“With only four games to go, we know that despite reducing the lead to one point, the trophy is still very much in Ra’anana’s own hands, and with their remaining fixtures against teams in the lower half of the table, I can’t see them slipping up with the quality squad that they have. Having said that, we will still try and keep the pressure on, making them work for their first title, though should they slip, it will still take some miracle for us to overcome our own mini injury crisis and win all our remaining four games, two of which are against two of the other sides in the top four.”
Sapir Marom, Ronen Goldsmith, Hillel Bloch, Mike Isaacson, Cliff Corney, Moshe Freedman, Tal Forscher, Chanani Corney, Josh Lipman, Alberto ‘Tito’ Telias, Zeev Landsman, Naphtali Kanichowsky, Haim Elimelech, Gaby Kanichowsky, Aviad Ben Meir, Gavriel Lebens
Aviad Ben Meir (76)
Daniel Boerstra, David Preston, Dan Kosky, Solomon Emeke Eza, Danny Sigal, Eli Warner, Gav Cohen, Eyal Toledo, Akiva Zneimer, Mordy Weiler, Dan Cohen.
Subs: Moishe Lewis, Avi Margolis, Jeremy Bornstein
Mordy Weiler (1), Akiva Zneimer (11)