Maccabi Tel Av iv midfielder Nikola Mitrovic (center) celebrates with teammates Eran Zahavi (left) and Omri Ben Harush after scoring his team’s winner in last night’s 1-0 win at Ashdod SC..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv climbed up to first place in the Premier League standings on Saturday, while Hapoel Beersheba lost further ground in the title race after falling at Maccabi Haifa.
Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the turmoil at Hapoel Tel Aviv, with coach Asi Domb being sacked after Saturday’s goalless deadlock with Hapoel Petah Tikva and Eli Cohen being immediately installed as his replacement.
Two-time defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv didn’t have it all its own way at Ashdod SC, but Nikola Mitrovic’s curler from the edge of the box in the 39th minute was all it needed to claim a 1-0 win.
Maccabi leapfrogged Ironi Kiryat Shmona into first place, with the northerners needing a win over Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday to return to the summit.
The yellow-and-blue extended its unbeaten streak to 10 matches, with eight of those being wins, while recording its sixth straight clean sheet.
“I think we played a fantastic first half,” said coach Pako Ayestaran.
“I’m quite pleased with this game on a really difficult pitch.”
Beersheba dropped eight points behind Maccabi and could find itself a further point back from first place should Kiryat Shmona win after falling to a 1-0 loss at Maccabi Haifa.
Despite its mediocre display, Beersheba could have gone ahead at a crucial moment, only for Maor Buzaglo to balloon his penalty in the 78th minute.
Haifa played one of its better matches of the season and was duly rewarded when Ruban Rayos scored from the spot in the fourth minute of stoppage time after Ofir Davidzada handled the ball in the box.
“We deserved to win,” said Haifa coach Marco Balbul, who finally guided his side to a victory after failing to do so in his first three league matches in charge of the greens since replacing Aleksandar Stanojevic last month. “We controlled the match from the first whistle. We moved the ball well and dominated the possession.
We played as a team and we finally played well.”
Haifa moved six points clear of the relegation zone and just a single point from fourth place, leapfrogging Hapoel Tel Aviv among others.
Hapoel’s 0-0 draw against Hapoel Petah Tikva left it with a single victory from its past 10 matches and inevitably ended Domb’s reign as coach.
Manager Eyal Berkovic quit last week for not being allowed to sack Domb without the consent of the club’s owners, but Hapoel still cast the coach aside on Saturday, bringing in the veteran Cohen to try and steady the ship.
Elsewhere Saturday, Hapoel Ra’anana made it three wins in a row since coach Haim Silvas was fired and then rehired with a 2-0 triumph at Hapoel Acre.
Anthony Nwakaeme (52) and Guy Lifka (80) scored the goals for Ra’anana, which climbed up to fifth place.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Haifa drew 0-0 in a match which ended in bizarre fashion. Haifa’s Zarko Korac failed to convert his spot kick in stoppage time, but Oshri Roash scored from the rebound, only to discover that referee Eitan Shmuelevitch had already blown the final whistle.