ISRAELI NATIONAL LEAGUE (LEAGUE A), 1991-92

The Champion: Maccabee Tel-Aviv.
The Cup Holder: Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa.
The Best Player: Avi Cohen (Jerusalemite), defender, Maccabee Tel-Aviv.

The League:
Preview
First Round
Second Round
Play-Offs
The Cup

PREVIEW

The season I'm talking about here was the first Israeli season of Alexander Uvarov and Nikolai Kudritskiy, the 2 best foreign players the Israeli League has ever seen. It was also the first full season of mine in Israel, when I started following after the games and collecting the statistics. It was the last season of Shlomo Sherf in Maccabee Haifa, before he took the place of the National Team Coach, and the last year of Andrei Bal as a defender, before he became the 2nd coach in Maccabee Haifa. Giora Spiegel was still the coach of Bnei-Yehuda Tel-Aviv, before coming to Haifa; Dror Kashtan coached Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa before taking Beitar Jerusalem in its golden season, and Avraham Grant just passed from Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa to begin his successful series with Maccabee Tel-Aviv. Maccabee Haifa's net was defended by the tremendous Victor Chanov, and Bnei-Yehuda's - by the veteran Yaacov Asayag; Bonnie Ginzburg returned from Glasgow Rangers only to see his team, Maccabee Yavne, relegating at the end of the season (and here started "the "Syndrome of Bonnie Ginzburg", as the same scenario repeated itself twice more during the decade); the Belgian Peter Kermens (sp?) stood in Hapoel Tel-Aviv's goal, and Rafi Cohen - in Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa's. A lot of things have changed since, indeed...

I give the highlights of the weeks that brought some games of interest and importance, or the games of none of those that are still remembered for the quality. So, if the certain weeks are missing, that's because at least I can remember nothing of importance or quality then.

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FIRST ROUND

Week 1 was marked by celebrating the opening of the Teddy stadium in Jerusalem, but the hosts lost there to Hapoel Tel-Aviv - 0:3. The defending Champions, Maccabee Haifa, defeated Bnei-Yehuda away - 2:1, the goals of Yaron Givol and Reuven Attar against the goal of Moti Ivanir. But the big surprise fell in the game between Maccabee Tel-Aviv and Beitar Tel-Aviv, and it was the game all of us would remember for long. Maccabee was leading 2:0 up to the 86th minute, and then its two foreigners "left the trace": Alexander Uvarov conceded 3 goals in 4 minutes, and the defender Alexander Polukarov was sent off! Certainly, a surprise.

Week 2 wasn't a picnic for Uvarov either - after just 7 minutes of play his team was down 0:2 at home against Maccabee Yavne; fortunately for the Yellows, they managed to make a nice comeback, winning 4:2. Maccabee Haifa and Beitar Tel-Aviv captured the top, the 1st after defeating Hapoel Jerusalem 3:0 at home, the 2nd after defeating Hapoel Tel-Aviv 2:0 at home.

Week 3 brought us an interesting game between Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Maccabee Haifa, with both teams showing attractive football and attacking dangerously. However, just the hosts were destined to score, when Moshe Sinai reached the ball before Victor Chanov, with 13 minutes to go. Soon after this swan song, Sinai retired from an active soccer and became an exclusive coach and manager of Hapoel Tel-Aviv.

Week 4 registered a dramatic draw between Maccabee Tel-Aviv and Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa - 3:3. Hapoel Tel-Aviv and the newcomer, Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa, caught the leadership, and 3 teams were following them - Maccabee Tel-Aviv, and also Maccabee Haifa and Beitar Tel-Aviv that tied their game in Haifa, 1:1. The bottom was occupied exclusively by Hapoel Jerusalem, defeated 0:3 by Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa away and having a terrible balance of +0=0-4, 0-10, 0 pts.

Week 5 - the top battle between Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa brought the 2:1 victory and the first place to Hapoel. Maccabee Haifa lost at home 2:3 to Hapoel Beer-Sheva, wasting a half-time lead of 2:0. And Maccabee Tel-Aviv lost again, this time 1:3 to Bnei-Yehuda in Shkhunat-ha'Tikwa. Here the voices to send Uvarov and Polukarov back to Russia became very demanding, but Avraham Grant insisted on giving them more time for acclimatization; a decision to prove later on the coaching genius of Grant and to improve the level of the Israeli League. At the bottom, Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Tsafririm Holon, 1:0, and registered its first victory and its first goal.

Week 6 - Maccabee Tel-Aviv defeated Hapoel Jerusalem 8:1, and Beitar Tel-Aviv made a comeback to devastate Hapoel Beer-Sheva - 6:2! Here Maccabee Tel-Aviv started its great run towards the Championship. The teams to fall were Hapoel Jerusalem, Maccabee Yavne, Hapoel Tsafririm Holon and also ... Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa, defeated at home by Maccabee Haifa - 0:2, the goals of Tal Banin and Reuven Attar.

Week 7 - Tel-Aviv derby was finished with 4:0 to Maccabee away, a hat-trick by Eli Driks. Maccabee Haifa lost 1:2 at home to Hapoel Tsafririm Holon and left the top struggles. The team to stay there was Bnei-Yehuda Tel-Aviv, defeating Maccabee Netanya 2:0; the first Israeli game of Niko Kudritskiy was marked by a goal pass to Haim Revivo.

Week 8, and Maccabee Haifa got a lead against Maccabee Tel-Aviv away after an early shot of Tal Banin; however, the leaders scored twice to win, and Avi Nimni missed the penalty kick, failing to make it 3:1. Niko Kudritskiy scored Bnei-Yehuda's home equalizer against Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa - 1:1.

Week 10 - Maccabee Tel-Aviv defeated Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa 3:1, and the same score was registered in favor of Bnei-Yehuda against Hapoel Jerusalem, while Maccabee Netanya defeated Maccabee Haifa 3:0; these 3 winning teams were the force to stay at the top. Hapoel Jerusalem, Maccabee Yavne and Hapoel Tsafririm Holon stayed at the very bottom.


PLACE         TEAM                 G   W   T   L    Goals     GD   Points

  1    Maccabee Tel-Aviv          11   8   1   2    33-15    +18     25
  2    Bnei-Yehuda Tel-Aviv       11   7   2   2    21-15    + 6     23
  3    Maccabee Netanya           11   6   2   3    14-11    + 3     20
  4    Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa      11   5   2   4    16-11    + 5     17
  5    Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa        11   4   5   2    15-12    + 3     17
  6    Beitar Tel-Aviv            11   5   1   5    21-15    + 6     16
  7    Maccabee Haifa             11   5   1   5    17-14    + 3     16
  8    Hapoel Tel-Aviv            11   4   2   5    10-15    - 5     14
  9    Hapoel Beer-Sheva          10*  3   3   4    14-17    - 3     12
 10    Hapoel Tsafririm Holon     10*  2   2   6     9-14    - 5      8
 11    Maccabee Yavne             11   1   4   6    10-20    -10      7
 12    Hapoel Jerusalem           11   2   1   8     6-27    -21      7

* - a missing game

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SECOND ROUND

Week 12 - Maccabee Haifa lost at home 0:2 to Bnei-Yehuda, and we remember most of all the mistake of Victor Chanov that caused the goal of Alon Mizrahi: the keeper missed the ball 35 meters from the net, and Mizrahi rolled it into an empty goal. Maccabee Tel-Aviv registered a comeback vs Beitar Tel-Aviv and took a revenge over what had happened at the first round. Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa defeated Maccabee Netanya - 2:1, and both of these teams continued threatening the top.

Week 14 - Eyal Beglyabter scored a last minute penalty to bring Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa a victory over Bnei-Yehuda Tel-Aviv, 2:1. Maccabee Haifa defeated Hapoel Tel-Aviv 2:0, climbing up to the 4th place. Maccabee Tel-Aviv opened a gap of 5 points from the 2nd place, defeating Maccabee Netanya 3:1 at home. Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabee Yavne stayed at the very bottom, and Hapoel Tsafririm Holon ran away from there, first defeating Hapoel Beer-Sheva 1:0 at home in a postponed game, and then devastating Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa 3:0 at home.

Week 15 - Bnei-Yehuda lost at home to the recovering Hapoel Tsafririm Holon, 1:3, and the Championship story seemed to be over, as Maccabee Tel-Aviv defeated Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa away, 3:1. Maccabee Haifa lost to the last minute goal of Beitar Tel-Aviv, 0:1 at home, and Hapoel Jerusalem gained yet another hope, defeating Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa at home, 1:0.

Week 16 - "The Game Of The Season" brought the victory to Maccabee Tel-Aviv over Bnei-Yehuda, 1:0, and the last doubts about the Champions were erased. At the bottom, Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Tsafririm Holon 1:0, and Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa registered an away comeback over Maccabee Yavne - 2:1, 2 cruel mistakes of Bonnie Ginzburg in Yavne's net. Hapoel Tel-Aviv defeated Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa away, 1:0, and enlarged the distance from the dangerous zone.

Week 17 - Maccabee Haifa defeated Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa 5:0 at home, and Maccabee Tel-Aviv achieved the same score in Jerusalem. Bnei-Yehuda defeated Maccabee Yavne, 5:2, and Hapoel Tel-Aviv defeated Holon, 2:0.

Week 18 - "The Bottom Battle" brought the victory to Maccabee Yavne, 1:0 at home over Hapoel Jerusalem. Maccabee Tel-Aviv won another derby, 1:0, and Bnei-Yehuda achieved just a draw in Netanya - 1:1. Maccabee Haifa caught the 3rd place, after defeating Hapoel Tsafririm Holon away, 2:1, with Banin and Attar scoring.

Week 19 - Maccabee Haifa made a nil draw at home against Maccabee Tel-Aviv and stopped the series of 13 consecutive victories of the leaders. Bnei-Yehuda missed the opportunity to reduce the gap, losing at home to Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa, 0:1.

Week 20 - Maccabee Tel-Aviv failed to defeat Beer-Sheva at home, 0:0. Maccabee Haifa lost all of a sudden 1:2 to Maccabee Yavne away, and Hapoel Jerusalem was defeated at home, 1:2 by Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa.

Week 21 - Hapoel Jerusalem lost at home to Bnei-Yehuda, 1:7! Maccabee Tel-Aviv defeated Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa, 2:0 away.

Week 22 - Hapoel Tsafririm Holon registered the tremendous sensation, defeating Maccabee Tel-Aviv 2:0 away! Bnei-Yehuda defeated Hapoel Tel-Aviv, 4:3, in a great game. Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa and Maccabee Haifa registered a 1:1 draw, satisfying both teams before a play-off.


PLACE         TEAM                 G   W   T   L    Goals     GD   Points

  1    Maccabee Tel-Aviv          22  16   3   3    54-22    +32     51
  2    Bnei-Yehuda Tel-Aviv       22  13   3   6    48-30    +18     42
  3    Maccabee Haifa             22   9   5   8    33-24    + 9     32
  4    Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa        22   8   8   6    25-25      0     32
  5    Beitar Tel-Aviv            22   9   4   9    32-25    + 7     31
  6    Maccabee Netanya           22   7   9   6    22-22      0     30
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  7    Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa      22   9   3  10    28-29    - 1     30
  8    Hapoel Tsafririm Holon     22   8   5   9    25-21    + 4     29
  9    Hapoel Beer-Sheva          22   7   7   8    28-31    - 3     28
 10    Hapoel Tel-Aviv            22   6   6  10    19-29    -10     24
 11    Maccabee Yavne             22   4   7  11    20-37    -17     19
 12    Hapoel Jerusalem           22   5   2  15    12-51    -39     17

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PLAY-OFFS

Week 24 - another "Game Of The Season" ended 1:1. At the bottom, Maccabee Yavne defeated Hapoel Beer-Sheva, 2:1.

Week 25 - Bnei-Yehuda made another draw with Maccabee Netanya at home: 2:2. Victor Chanov parried a penalty kick by Nir Klinger and saved the rebound, but his defence slept to let the third trial in; that goal destroyed Maccabee Haifa psychologically quite early in the game, causing a defeat of 1:5 at home to Maccabee Tel-Aviv! At the bottom, Hapoel Tel-Aviv defeated Maccabee Yavne 2:0, and actually sentenced the team of Bonnie Ginzburg to relegation.

Week 26 - Bnei-Yehuda lost 1:4 at home to Maccabee Haifa! At the bottom, Hapoel Tel-Aviv lost to Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa away, 1:2, and Maccabee Yavne defeated Hapoel Jerusalem away, 2:1 after a nice comeback. At the bottom, everything was still open; at the top, everything seemed to be clear, as the leaders Maccabee Tel-Aviv defeated Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa at home, 2:0.

Week 28 - Maccabee Tel-Aviv devastated Maccabee Netanya, 3:0 away; Bnei-Yehuda Tel-Aviv defeated Beitar Tel-Aviv, 3:1 away. From that moment, Bnei-Yehuda had to win all its games to win the Championship, also only in case Maccabee Tel-Aviv would lose all its games. At the bottom - Hapoel Jerusalem was the first team to relegate officially, and Maccabee Yavne defeated Holon 1:0, but Hapoel Tel-Aviv did the same vs Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

Week 29 - Maccabee Tel-Aviv won the Championship, defeating Bnei-Yehuda in another "Game Of The Season" in Shkhunat-ha'Tikwa, 3:2. Hapoel Tel-Aviv defeated Hapoel Jerusalem 4:0 at home, and Maccabee Yavne achieved just a 1:1 away draw, against Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

Week 30 - Maccabee Tel-Aviv registered another 5:1 victory over Maccabee Haifa, this time at home. Maccabee Yavne relegated officially, losing 2:3 to Hapoel Tel-Aviv at home. Hapoel Jerusalem made a 4:4 draw with Hapoel Beer-Sheva, in a wonderful game of no importance at all for any of the squads.

Week 31 - Maccabee Yavne defeated Hapoel Jerusalem, 5:0 at home. A good way to say good-bye to the National League.

Week 32 - Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Tsafririm Holon, 5:4 at home, after several wonderful comebacks. Also a nice way to part from the Senior Israeli League.


PLACE            TEAM           G   W   T   L    Goals     GD   Points

  1    Maccabee Tel-Aviv       32  23   6   3    82-29    +53     75   EC1
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  2    Bnei-Yehuda Tel-Aviv    32  19   5   8    68-44    +24     62
  3    Maccabee Haifa          32  14   6  12    51-43    + 8     48
  4    Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa     32  11  10  11    34-35    - 1     43   EC2
  5    Beitar Tel-Aviv         32  11   6  15    43-47    - 4     39
  6    Maccabee Netanya        32   8  11  13    32-46    -14     35
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  7    Maccabee Petakh-Tikwa   32  15   6  11    46-41    + 5     51
  8    Hapoel Tsafririm Holon  32  11   8  13    38-35    + 3     41
  9    Hapoel Tel-Aviv         32  11   8  13    35-38    - 3     41
 10    Hapoel Beer-Sheva       32  10  10  12    40-43    - 3     40
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 11    Maccabee Yavne          32   8   9  15    36-50    -14     33
 12    Hapoel Jerusalem        32   6   5  21    27-81    -54     23

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THE CUP

I do not remember exactly the first stages of the Cup. I recall, however, the semifinals, where Gabi Elbaz parried a penalty kick by Nir Levin, but his team, Beitar Tel-Aviv, still lost to Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa, 0:1 after an extra time. And there was another fantastic game, between Maccabee Tel-Aviv and Maccabee Haifa. Haifa was ahead twice, through a couple of brilliant efforts by Itai Mordechai, the second when he threw himself into the air to reach the ball and to bounce it with his toetips over Uvarov and Polukarov from 17 meters; however, the current Champions were after all better than the ex-Champions, finishing the thriller 4:2 into their favor.

Since Maccabee Tel-Aviv already won the Championship battle, it was clear Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa would play in the European Cup Winners Cup, no matter the result of the final game; naturally, no soccer fans had even a bit of a doubt in Maccabee Tel-Aviv winning the double. However, the opposite happened. Yossi Levi headed it home after 15 minutes, 1:0 to Petakh-Tikwa. Nir Klinger equalized (41), and the teams went through the second half into an extra ti- me. And here two magnificent penetrations of Alon Hazan (102, 115) resulted in 2 great preparations to the goals of Meni Bason, bringing the more than surprising victory to Petakh-Tikwa - 3:1. That was the last game of Hazan in Hapoel Petakh-Tikwa, and then he passed to Maccabee Haifa, registering one extremely mediocre season and two bright ones.

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