After scoring in five straight matches, Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson has gone five games without a goal, a streak he will be hoping to end when the yellow-andblue hosts Hapoel Haifa in Netanya on Saturday night.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The top four teams in the Premier League standings face off this weekend as the tightest title race in recent decades continues to take shape.
Hapoel Beersheba begins the weekend in first place on 50 points, one ahead of Beitar Jerusalem, two in front of Maccabi Tel Aviv and four above Hapoel Haifa.
Beersheba hosts Beitar at Turner Stadium on Sunday, with Tel Aviv welcoming Haifa in Netanya on Saturday.
Tel Aviv is the only one of the four teams not to have won its last match, suffering a shock 1-0 home loss to Hapoel Ra’anana. Maccabi was unbeaten in 14 matches, winning eight of its previous nine games, but last Saturday’s loss ultimately saw it drop from first to third.
Beersheba returned to the summit with its biggest win of the season, beating Maccabi Petah Tikva 3-0 for its first league victory by more than two goals.
Beersheba extended its unbeaten streak at Turner to 46 matches and has picked up 27 of a possible 33 points at home so far this season.
Beitar leapfrogged into second place by beating Bnei Yehuda 2-0 on Monday for its third straight victory.
Hapoel Haifa remained in the hunt after defeating Maccabi Netanya 2-0 on Sunday. Haifa’s unlikely title hopes looked to be over after it began 2018 by picking up only a single point from three matches. But with the rest of the challengers all dropping points over recent weeks, Haifa is back in the picture after winning three of its last four matches.
Haifa and Maccabi drew 2-2 when they met for the first time this season three months ago. Tel Aviv came back from behind to take the lead, with Haifa equalizing through Hanan Maman, who has since joined Beersheba.
Also Saturday, Ra’anana hosts Ashdod SC in a battle between two teams aiming to build a cushion on the relegation zone. Ra’anana is two spots and five points above the bottom two, while Ashdod is four points in front of Hapoel Ashkelon after defeating rock-bottom Hapoel Acre 3-2 last weekend.
Ashkelon, which has lost six straight matches, hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday in what will be coach Messay Dego’s second game in charge.
Elsewhere, Maccabi Netanya visits Maccabi Haifa. Also Sunday, Bnei Yehuda looks to officially secure its spot in the top-six championship playoffs when it hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Maccabi Petah Tikva welcomes Acre on Monday.