Bnei Sakhnin midfielder Nir Lax (right) celebrates after scoring the winner in last night’s 1-0 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva at Doha Stadium..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
The battle for third place in the Premier League standings and qualification for the Europa League next season continued to heat up on Sunday night, with an 87th-minute winner by Nir Lax giving Bnei Sakhnin a 1-0 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva at Doha Stadium.
Petah Tikva remains in third place, but is still only five points ahead of Beitar Jerusalem, with Sakhnin one point further back and Maccabi Haifa trailing by another point after beating Beitar 3-2 on Saturday night.
Fourth place will also be good enough to qualify for continental competition should either Maccabi Tel Aviv or Beitar Jerusalem win the State Cup and finish in the top three. Maccabi and Beitar clash in the cup semis on Wednesday.
“We showed a lot of character by beating one of the league’s better teams with a depleted lineup,” said Sakhnin coach Yossi Abuksis.
After losing just once in 14 matches to take a stranglehold on third place, Petah Tikva suffered its third straight 1-0 defeat on Sunday.
“We should have scored four or five goals in the first half and this isn’t the first time that this has happened to us,” said Petah Tikva coach Kobi Refua. “We will probably have to fight for third place until the end of the campaign. We can’t manage to build a comfortable gap and now Haifa is also in the picture.”
Hapoel Ra’anana took a significant step towards securing another season in the top flight on Sunday, beating Hapoel Kfar Saba 2-0.
Mohammad Kalibat (32) and Dor Hugi (40) scored for Ra’anana, which snapped a four-match run without a goal.
Ra’anana moved up to ninth place, nine points ahead of Kfar Saba, which remained in the relegation zone, one point behind Hapoel Tel Aviv and safety.
Kfar Saba could find itself in last place on Monday night should rock-bottom Hapoel Ashkelon beat Ashdod SC.