Ironi Kiryat Shmona blew the Premier League title race wide open on Monday night, stunning league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-1.

Maccabi entered the match on the back of a seven-match winning streak, building a six-point gap at the top of the standing over Hapoel Beersheba ahead of the weekend’s action with 13 victories from its first 16 games.

However, Beersheba reduced the margin to three points with Saturday’s dramatic 2-1 win at Bnei Yehuda and Kiryat Shmona kept the southerners within striking distance by handing the yellow- and-blue its second defeat of the season on Monday.

“In general they were better than us and deserved to win,” said Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa.

“This is the biggest win of my career,” admitted Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar.

A dreadful defensive blunder gifted Kiryat Shmona the lead after less than five minutes. The usually reliable Nikola Mitrovic sent an inaccurate back-pass towards goalkeeper Juan Pablo and Barak Badash capitalized with a clever shot from 25 meters out that left the backtracking stopper with no chance.

It wasn’t long before the hosts doubled their advantage, with Mindaugas Panka left all alone in the center of the box in the 23rd minute to smash in Kiryat Shmona’s second goal of the night to the disbelief of Juan Pablo.

Not only was Maccabi’s typically stingy defense leaking goals in uncharacteristic fashion, but the defending champion also created very little on the offensive end.

Kiryat Shmona ’keeper Guy Haimov didn’t have to make a difficult save until two min utes to halftime when defender Eitan Tibi tested him from long distance.

Eran Zahavi squandered a golden opportunity to hand his team a lifeline three minutes into the second half, although Haimov also deserves plenty of credit for keeping out the midfielder’s powerful effort from close range.

There was no way back for Maccabi after Kiryat Shmona scored its third goal in the 69th minute.

Badash sent an unstoppable effort into the top right corner from the center of the box, sparking jubilation in the stands and in Beersheba, which was dampened in no way by Zahavi’s consolation goal four minutes from time.

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