Shimon Abu Hazeira.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Haifa finally snapped its losing streak on Saturday night, while Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Beersheba maintained the status quo at the top of the Premier League standings.
After four consecutive defeats, and with coach Aleksandar Stanojevic admitting that he is considering his future at the club, the Greens at last got back to winning ways on Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Acre at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Haifa had goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic to thank for maintaining the deadlock until Shimon Abu Hazeira scored the winner in the 75th minute, just four minutes after coming on as a substitute.
“I feel better of course, but we played very bad today,” said Stanojevic. “We are still playing with a lot of pressure. I want to thank the fans for supporting us and say sorry again. I hope that after this win we can start to play like we did at the start of the season.”
Kiryat Shmona maintained its hold on first place with a 3-1 win at Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday. Shahar Hirsch gave Petah Tikva the lead after 21 minutes, but two goals within five minutes turned the match on its head. Kassio (30) and Rodgers Kola (34) put the visitors in the driving seat, and despite Roei Kehat’s penalty miss in the 50th minute, a Hasan Abu Zaid own-goal (57) ensured the northerners picked up their sixth win from the past seven contests.
Following the international break, Kiryat Shmona’s title credentials will face their toughest test to date when defending-champion Maccabi Tel Aviv comes to town.
“You can tell we are having fun and that is our secret,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar. “Our goal is to remain in first place and we are taking one match at a time. Maccabi Tel Aviv is next up and that should be interesting.”
Beersheba struggled to break down Ashdod SC’s defensive formation in the first half, but a second-half blitz ensured it claimed a 2-1 triumph and remained two points back of Kiryat Shmona.
Shlomi Arbeitman headed in the opener from a Maor Buzaglo cross in the 65th minute, with the latter doubling the advantage seven minutes later.
“Teams try to slow the match when they come here and I knew that we would have to be very patient,” said Buzaglo. “Beersheba’s target this season is to continue and improve and of course it would be amazing if we managed to claim a title.”
Also Saturday, a Maharan Lala winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave Hapoel Haifa a 1-0 victory over Beitar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium.
Beitar registered the better chances, but it couldn’t find the back of the net and Lala’s accurate effort in the 94th minute secured Haifa just its second win of the season.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv return to action for the first time since last week’s derby debacle.
Both teams will only face the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Monday, and will first hope to get back on track on the field. Maccabi, without the suspended Eran Zahavi, goes in search of its fourth consecutive win when it hosts Maccabi Netanya at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hapoel visits Hapoel Ra’anana in Netanya.
On Monday, Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva.