Soccer / Premier League / Bnei Yehuda books European berth
Bnei Yehuda came back to defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv 4-3 last night, securing second place in the Premier League. Maccabi Tel Aviv cannot finish better than sixth now and has no chance of qualifying for European competition. Maccabi Haifa inched closer to Europe after blanking host Kiryat Shmona 1-0.
Yossi Abukasis, head coach of Bnei Yehuda, has endured a small but vociferous opposition in the stands this season. But yesterday’s spate of goals and Bnei Yehuda’s first time in years as league runner-up should silence those critics.
After Moussa Konate scored in the 26th minute to put Maccabi Tel Aviv up 2-0, Abukasis could only bite his lip as the fans continued to curse. However, his players soon gave him reason to concentrate on the game and enjoy his final days with the team.
Two minutes after Maccabi went up by two, Nenad Marinkovic cut the lead in half, and Bnei Yehuda was back in the hunt.
Abukasis inserted his best weapon in Amir Agajev, who provided a 70th-minute goal and an assist to Pedro Galvan, whose 78th-minute score turned the tables on Maccabi Tel Aviv. Pini Balili added an insurance goal in the 87th minute, making it 4-2, which Bnei Yehuda needed as Nivaldo scored for Tel Aviv in the 90th minute.
With the final whistle, the vast majority of fans saluted Abukasis, who brought their team to Europe, even if he won’t be there to lead it, while putting to bed Maccabi’s hopes of being there.
Up in Kiryat Shmona, Maccabi Haifa treated its match as a real-time warm-up for its upcoming Cup Final against Hapoel Tel Aviv. Haifa, looking to nail down a ticket to Europe without having to go through the podium in Ramat Gan, got the job done by fighting to a 1-0 victory over the host champions. Kiryat Shmona, however, didn’t do much to make Haifa work hard.
Alon Turgeman scored the winning goal in the 12th minute, and Kiryat Shmona never threatened to upset the final result.