Stopped it: Maccabi Haifa opens a gap at the top – sports

Josh Cohen stops the dramatic penalty tonight

Josh Cohen stops the dramatic penalty tonight

Photo: Niv Cohen, the official website of Maccabi Haifa

Maccabi Haifa on the way to the championship? Guy Luzon’s first game as coach was in November 2001. It was the league game between Maccabi Petah Tikva and Maccabi Haifa, in which Petah Tikva won 1: 2 and inflicted on the Greens from Haifa a first loss in the league which was also Petah Tikva’s first victory in the league. How did that season end? With only one more loss for Haifa and winning the championship title.

Tonight (Saturday night), 15 years later, the two parted again with the same result, only this time the winner was Haifa, which thanks to the victory opens a gap of 6 points over the second in the table, Petah Tikva, on the way to a historic championship after many years.

Haifa’s victory tonight at the top was not easily achieved at all, but at the end of a great drama that ended in the 98th minute, in a game that had everything a football fan wants – goals, penalties and beautiful football moves.

Petah Tikva, which opened the season with a surprising away victory over the champion Maccabi Tel Aviv, also opened the top game tonight in a storm when already in the 4th minute it took the lead from a goal by Naor Sabag.

Less than 4 minutes passed and who but Nikita Rokavitsia was there for Haifa when he compared the result in his 12th goal this season in the Premier League and for the 57th time in the Maccabi Haifa uniform. In doing so, the Australian striker overtook Moshe Selector and took huge steps towards the airplane Alon Mizrahi, who scored 63 goals in the Haifa uniform.

Abu-Fani could have set up a turnaround for Haifa even before the halftime break but kicked to the beam the penalty kick from 11 meters and both teams went down in a 1-1 draw that did not herald anything that would happen.

After quite a few opportunities for Haifa that were stopped by him, a mistake by the Petah Tikva goalkeeper in the 79th minute created the long-awaited turnaround and the Haifa players were already celebrating a close and sweet victory.

Then came the extra time. A foul inside the Haifa plaza and approval of the VAR system led to a penalty whistle in favor of Petah Tikva, but Haifa goalkeeper Josh Cohen was there in the right place and with a big stop set up a fifth consecutive victory for Haifa that opens a 6-point gap at the top of the table. On the way to the first championship after a decade?