Maccabi Haifa claimed a significant win in the battle for third place and Europa League qualification on Monday night, beating Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-1 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Haifa moved tied on points with third-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona and four points ahead of Hapoel, bouncing back from last week’s loss at Beitar Jerusalem to claim its fourth victory in the past five matches.
On the other hand, Hapoel’s season went from bad to worse, losing important ground to Haifa and Kiryat Shmona after failing to win for a third consecutive contest.
Hapoel got off to the better start, with only a last-ditch Dekel Keinan goal-line clearance denying the visitors the opener in the 16th minute.
Shimon Harush’s powerful left-footed shot had beaten goalkeeper Amir Edri and was making its way into the bottom right corner before Keinan somehow managed to get his left foot to the ball and clear the danger despite being off-balance.
Edri was beaten once more six minutes later, but this time it was the crossbar that came to his rescue, keeping out Israel Zaguri’s close-range effort.
Six more minutes passed before Haifa broke the deadlock against the run of play. The Greens broke forward swiftly and Hen Ezra’s cross from the left was headed into the back of the net by the surging Tamas Priskin, who joined Haifa in the January transfer window and scored in his first start for the team.
It took Haifa nine second half minutes to clinch the three points. Hapoel ‘keeper Danny Amos denied two Ezra attempts within two minutes, but there was nothing he could do to keep out Alon Turgeman’s shot in the 54th minute.
Sasha handed Hapoel a lifeline out of nowhere with a goal in the 67th minute, but Tel Aviv’s hopes suffered a crushing blow less than two minutes later when Orel Dgani left his team with 10 men after receiving a second yellow card for holding back Priskin and Shoval Guzlan capped the victory four minutes from time.
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