Courtesy Dov Halickman Photography

Courtesy Dov Halickman Photography

1- Maccabi Tel Aviv picked up another win in WINNER League play as they defeated Bnei Sakhnin at Doha Stadium 2:0. The win marked the 4th league match in a row that the Yellow-and-Blue picked up a clean sheet with the help of superb play by keeper Predrag Rajkovic and solid defensive play that the team lacked earlier in the year. Maccabi is becoming more and more of a focused side that can now concentrate on league play with the Champions League out of the way. The only other tournament Maccabi has to be prepared for is defending their Israel State Cup title which will begin in 2016. Of course captain Eran Zahavi was at the forefront once again and hopefully Maccabi can begin to get more players in on the scoring act during this second round of matches. Next week Hapoel Beer Sheva comes to Bloomfield to take on the defending champs and league leaders with a bit of a chip on their shoulder.

2- Hapoel Beer Sheva won on a last second header goal by John Ogu to steal a victory at home against Kiryat Shemona. Ogu’s perfectly nodded ball found the back of Madi Zoabi’s goal to keep Beer Sheva level on points with Maccabi Tel Aviv atop of the WINNER League table but mired in second place due to goal differential. Next week, Beer Sheva will have the opportunity to move ahead of Maccabi in the standings as they visit Bloomfield Stadium and take on the Yellow-and-Blue. Is this a crucial match for both teams? Not really as there are plenty of points left in the bank with 21 games and 63 points remaining after the Matchday Fifteen encounter and two more matches between the two sides in the playoff round.

Is the game important for Beer Sheva in an attempt to back up some of their talk over the last couple of months? Certainly. They are looking to show the Israeli footballing world that they are going to be a force that will be reckoned with and that they are a real threat for the top spot in the league. However, even with a win Beer Sheva will place a ton of pressure on themselves with many more months of the season to go. Does Maccabi want to win? Of course they play every match to win and would love to show everyone that they are still the top dog along with giving themselves a 3-point lead. Will the match be interesting? For sure. Toon in on Monday night December 21st at 20:55 Israel Time to find out.

3- The league played 4 goalless matches this past weekend. Not a great showing by many of the teams. The biggest disappointment of a match was Beitar Jerusalem visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv as both sides failed to create any serious scoring opportunities. It seemed the Jerusalem side was very happy to leave Bloomfield Stadium with a point, maintaining 3rd place in the league with 25 points, two ahead of Maccabi Petach Tikva and seven behind Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beer Sheva. This could have been the dreaded trap game for Beitar coming off of a 2:0 home win over Kiryat Shemona but Yellow-and-Black coach Slobodan Drapic was smart enough not to fall into that trap and escape with a point against a poor Hapoel Tel Aviv side. It should also be noted since scoring a hat-trick at Bloomfield against Maccabi, Nikita Rukavysta has been held scoreless in 6 straight games.

4- Only 5 points separate 6th and 13th places as the league enters the second round of matches. The next month of games will begin to tell us who will be contenders for an upper playoff spot and who will be the pretenders. With teams like Maccab Haifa, Kiryat Shemona, Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Tel Aviv it should be an interesting next 12 matches until we get to the Playoffs.