Hapoel Petah Tikvah’s Dor Hugi.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Petah Tikva is on the verge of relegation to the National League after squandering a two-goal lead and losing 3-2 to Hapoel Haifa on Saturday.
Petah Tikva opened a quick 2-0 lead thanks to a brace from Dor Hugi (4, 16), but Hamdi Salihi handed Haifa a lifeline one minute from the break and Oshri Roash (48) and another Salihi goal (53) completed the comeback within five second-half minutes.
With Hapoel Acre beating Hapoel Ra’anana 2-0 on Saturday and Ashdod SC drawing, rock-bottom Petah Tikva finds itself five points from safety with just two matches left in the season and six points to play for.
“The match was heading in our direction and we could have led 4-0 at halftime,” lamented Petah Tikva coach Menahem Koretzki, whose team will have to win its final two games and hope other results go its way to survive.
“We lost the game more than Haifa won it. We lost to ourselves and we will just have to live with that.”
Despite the dramatic win, Haifa still remains in the relegation zone, although it is only two points behind Acre and one back from Ashdod SC, which drew 1-1 at Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday.
“We came back from nowhere,” admitted Haifa coach Tal Banin. “We were frozen at the beginning, but after conceding two goals we had nothing to lose and the players showed their character.
We now need to put this match behind us because we are facing two games for everything.”
Acre, which climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time in more than five months last week, continued its recent run of form with a win over Ra’anana thanks to goals from Amir Abu Nil (42) and Zion Zemah (81).
“If we continue like this we will win,” said Acre coach Shlomi Dora, with his team claiming a fifth win from eight matches after recording just two victories from its first 23 contests of the campaign.
“We showed we are not scared of anything today and our only focus at the moment is next weekend’s match against Maccabi Netanya. We have our fate in our hands and we are not looking at any other team.”
Ashdod remained in deep trouble after its winless streak reached 13 matches at Sakhnin. Alexander Davidov gave Ashdod the lead (60), only for Mohammad Ghadir to equalize eight minutes from time.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Tel Aviv beat Maccabi Netanya 2-1. Netanya led from Olarenwaju Kayode (13), but goals by Shlomi Azulay (34) and Sari Falah (62) gave Hapoel the win.
Beitar Jerusalem’s hopes of qualifying for Europe suffered a blow on Saturday with a 1-0 loss to Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Ahmed Abed netted Kiryat Shmona’s winner at Teddy Stadium in the 83rd minute.
Kiryat Shmona’s victory means Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to wait at least another week to officially clinch a third consecutive championship. The yellowand- blue visits Maccabi Haifa on Monday, with Hapoel Beersheba going to Maccabi Petah Tikva on Sunday.