IPL at quar­ter mark: Mac TA leads pack

The Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS - • By JOSHUA HALICKMAN

The Is­rael Foot­ball Pre­mier League Li­gat Ja­panika 2018-19 sea­son has hit the quar­ter mark and it’s time to take a look at some of the most in­ter­est­ing and in­trigu­ing sto­ries so far this cam­paign.

Mac­cabi Tel Aviv has been the leader of the pack so far, post­ing a re­mark­able record of seven wins and two draws in nine matches, for 23 points out of a pos­si­ble 27. That’s their best start since the Dou­ble 1995-96 sea­son, when they won eight games and lost one of their first nine. The yel­lowand-blue have scored 21 goals and have con­ceded only four as keeper Pre­drag Ra­jkovic has recorded five clean sheets. Scor­ing has been dis­trib­uted ex­tremely well for Vladimir Ivic’s squad with 11 dif­fer­ent play­ers find­ing the back of the goal, while Dor Micha leads the league with five as­sists.

Hapoel Hadera is the sur­prise pack­age of the sea­son to date. No one ex­pected the newly pro­moted side to be in con­tention: af­ter nine matches they sit in sec­ond place with six vic­to­ries, two de­feats and a draw good for 19 points. Coach Niso Avi­tan has done a re­mark­able job in keep­ing Hadera not only com­pet­i­tive but in the ti­tle race by keep­ing his play­ers con­di­tion­ing at its peak as they have been able to out­last their op­po­nents scor­ing four match win­ning goals in the 87th minute or later. Lu­cio has been the team’s lead­ing goal scorer with five mark­ers while Ange-Freddy Plumain has handed out four as­sists.

Bnei Ye­huda is an­other squad that has been a rev­e­la­tion so far with bud­ding young­ster Yar­den Shua and Mavis Tchi­b­ota. Shua has five goals and three as­sists while Tchi­b­ota leads the league in goals with six as Head Coach Yossi Abuk­sis has his team play­ing solid foot­ball. In fact, Bnei Ye­huda has won and drawn four matches while los­ing only once this sea­son, a de­feat that came in the first Match­day while scor­ing 16 goals and giv­ing up only six. The club’s sig­na­ture win came at Beitar Jerusalem when they took down the cap­i­tal city side 5-1.

Kiryat She­mona is cur­rently in fourth place sport­ing a record of four wins, three draws and a pair of de­feats as Haim Sil­vas’s team has given up only five goals as they fea­ture one of the strong­est de­fenses in the league. A back line an­chored by Iyad Abu Abaid, Mar­cus Diniz, Idan Nach­mias and Yu­val Sh­pun­gin, along with mid­fielder Valon Ahmedi, they have proved to be the stars of the show for Sil­vas as the north­ern-most team looks to con­tinue their fine sea­son.

Hapoel Beer Sheva suf­fered a rough start to the sea­son only win­ning their first game on Match­day 6, and leav­ing them 10 points off the ta­ble lead­ers at the quar­ter mark. Barak Bachar’s at­tack has been stag­nant as Ben Sa­har leads the team in scor­ing with three goals, two of which came just last con­test. How­ever, there’s plenty of foot­ball left to play and you can never un­der­es­ti­mate the heart of a cham­pion.

Mac­cabi Haifa has also had a topsy-turvy sea­son as Tech­ni­cal Di­rec­tor Mo Al­lach and Head Coach Fred Rut­ten re­signed af­ter the team’s sec­ond win of the sea­son on Match­day 8 as vet­eran Is­raeli boss Eli Gut­man now takes over the squad. The one bright spot for the Carmel Greens has been the play of Muhamad Awad who has scored three goals so far this sea­son. How­ever, with no full time coach slated to be ap­pointed un­til af­ter Match­day 10, Haifa will need to get its house in or­der quickly over the up­com­ing three week break.

Beitar Jerusalem re­placed Guy Lu­zon with Nir Klinger just in time for Match­day 9 but the re­sults were im­me­di­ate as the yel­low-and-black moved out of the league base­ment. This was only the cap­i­tal city side’s sec­ond win of the cam­paign as new owner Moshe Ho­geg hopes his luck will change with a new boss in charge.

If you like goals then Mac­cabi Ne­tanya is your team as they’ve scored 12 while giv­ing up 14 so far this sea­son. But it also took them un­til Match­day 5 to notch their first vic­tory but have now won four of their last five games. Guy Me­lamed leads the team with four goals as Dudi Ti­ram has three.

While Ne­tanya has played well of late, the ex­act op­po­site can be said of 7th place club Mac­cabi Pe­tah Tikva who have not won since Match­day 4. Vet­eran Yossi Be­nay­oun has three goals as Gidi Kanuk has four to lead Elisha Levy’s team who look to the back onto the win­ning track.

Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, cov­ers Is­raeli sports and or­ga­nizes Is­rael Sports Ad­ven­tures for tourists and res­i­dents: sport­srabbi.com/ - Twit­ter @thes­port­srabbi; sport­srabbi9@gmail.com

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