Ironi Kiryat Shmona players (in blue) celebrate after taking a 2-0 lead over Maccabi Haifa during last night’s 3-1 win at Sammy Ofer Stadium..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona proved once more that its place atop the Premier League standings is no coincidence on Saturday night, while Hapoel Beersheba remained hot on its heels.
Kiryat Shmona extended its unbeaten start to the season to 12 matches and ensured itself at least one more week in first place with a 3-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Haifa entered the encounter on the back of its first winning streak of the season, but was outclassed in the first half by Kiryat Shmona.
Rodgers Kola (19) and Ofir Mizrahi (24) took advantage of Haifa’s leaky defense to give the visitors a comfortable lead. Idan Vered (77) handed the Greens a lifeline, only for Kola to take his tally over the past five matches to five goals to clinch the win in the 91st minute.
“We were extremely ready,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar.
“We recorded a big win against a team that was coming in with momentum.”
Haifa coach Aleksandar Stanojevic was lost for answers after the Greens dropped to their seventh defeat in 12 matches this season.
“We started the first half without focus and concentration and I don’t know why,” said Stanojevic. “After we went down 2-0 we had nothing to lose and the players started to play without pressure.”
Beersheba remained three points behind Kiryat Shmona thanks to an easy 4-0 win over Hapoel Haifa at Vasermil Stadium. A stunning Maor Buzaglo strike from 30 meters out broke the deadlock after 12 minutes before Roei Gordana doubled the advantage seven minutes later. Shlomi Arbeitman netted a brace (43, 48) to complete the rout and give the hosts their second 4-0 win in a week.
“We had a very intense week but we played well,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy. “We displayed consistency and that is the most important thing to me. We saw over the past week that we are improving in every aspect of the game, but we need to build on that.”
While there is no end in sight to its crisis off the field, Maccabi Netanya at least gave itself something to smile about on Saturday with an important 2-1 win at Hapoel Acre.
Netanya had lost each of its past two games by a 4-0 score-line, while owner Eli Segev, who is on his way out of the club, sold his home to help pay the players, who haven’t received a salary in two months.
Cristian Sarghi’s (25) opener for Netanya was canceled out by Hamdi Salihi (35), but Eran Levy’s superb strike in the 64th minute gave the visitors all three points.
“There isn’t really much reason to celebrate because of the state of the club,” said Netanya coach Yossi Mizrahi, who is considering leaving the club due to its financial struggles.
Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin drew 1-1 at Hapoel Ra’anana, a day after sacking coach Guy Levy. Eli Cohen will take Levy’s place, with Sakhnin just one point off the bottom of the standings following Saturday’s draw.
Firas Mugrabi put Sakhnin in front with his penalty in the 41st minute, with Mamadou Thiam (64) netting the equalizer for Ra’anana.
On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv goes to Ashdod SC, while Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Beitar at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa on Monday. Also Monday, Maccabi Petah Tikva faces Hapoel Petah Tikva in the derby.