Despite a far from impressive performance, Maccabi Tel Aviv embarked on what it hopes will be another lengthy winning streak when it defeated Ashdod SC 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday night.
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Ashdod defender Paty Yeye handed the defending champion an ideal start to the match with an own-goal after less than three minutes and Eran Zahavi took his tally for the season to 12 goals to secure the three points 10 minutes from time.
Maccabi, which had a seven-match winning streak snapped with a 3-1 defeat at Ironi Kiryat Shmona last week, extended its gap over second- placed Hapoel Beersheba to six points, at least until the southerners host Maccabi Haifa on Monday night.
“It was important for us not to show any weakness after the defeat to Kiryat Shmona,” said Zahavi. “People expect us to thrash our opponents in every match, but teams are very motivated when they face us. We won 2-0 and are already looking ahead to the game against Ramat Hasharon. There are no easy matches in this league and we will have to work hard in every game to take the points.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv won its third match in a row on Saturday, beating Hapoel Ra’anana 4-1 in Netanya. The reds hadn’t claimed more than two consecutive victories all season until Saturday, but climbed to fifth place with the triumph and currently trail Bnei Sakhnin in third position by a mere two points.
Omer Damari netted his 12th goal of the campaign after 18 minutes and the visitors cruised in the second half after taking a two-goal lead into the break, with Shimon Harush scoring in the 31st minute after Ra’anana’s Asi Baldut missed a penalty (28).
Baldut (52) got a goal back for Ra’anana, but Gili Vermut (64) and Itay Shechter (93) completed the rout.
Sakhnin and Kiryat Shmona remain in third and fourth places, respectively, at least until Monday, after drawing 1-1 on Saturday.
Kassio handed the visitors the lead in the 24th minute, but Dedi Ben- Dayan brought Sakhnin back on level terms just two minutes later.
Maccabi Petah Tikva and Bnei Yehuda drew 2-2 on Saturday in a showdown between two strugglers in desperate need of a win.
Petah Tikva went in front in the 16th minute through Nitzan Damari, but Bnei Yehuda equalized two minutes later, only for Giddy Kaniuk to put the hosts back ahead in the 20th minute.
Amir Agajev leveled the score once more in the 34th minute, but after the first half goal-fest, neither team could find the back of the net again after the break.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Acre drew 0-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Beitar Jerusalem welcomes Ramat Hasharon to Teddy Stadium on Sunday.