Maccabi Tel Aviv can all but wrap up its second straight Premier League championship should it beat Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night.
A win for the defending champion will see it move 11 points clear of Hapoel Beersheba with six matches to play after Beersheba suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Vasermil Stadium on Saturday.
David Manga scored both of Kiryat Shmona’s goals (17, 86) to extend the team’s unbeaten streak to 11 matches and maintain its hold on third place.
Kiryat Shmona’s victory will also boost its morale ahead of Wednesday’s State Cup semifinal versus Beersheba. Beersheba coach Elisha Levy rested star midfielder Maor Buzaglo and didn’t start captain Elyaniv Barda on Saturday. However, Barda suffered a muscle strain with 10 minutes to play after coming on as a substitute and is a doubt for the cup semis.
Hapoel Tel Aviv remained in control of its fate in the battle for fourth place, beating Bnei Sakhnin 3-0 at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hapoel built on its recent impressive play, taking all three points courtesy of goals from Israel Zaguri (64, 71) and Omer Damari (81), who took his league-leading tally to a new club record of 23 goals, seven goals shy of Nissim Elmalich’s alltime record set in the 1954/55 campaign.
Sakhnin’s Ala’a Abu-Saleh was sent off for his foul on Yigal Antebi which resulted in Damari’s accurate spot kick.
Only a top-three finish guarantees a European berth for next season, but should Beersheba or Kiryat Shmona lift the State Cup as well as end the season among the first three, fourth place will also be sufficient for Europa League qualification.
Hapoel Ra’anana and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon claimed significant victories in the fight against relegation on Saturday, while Hapoel Haifa’s fifth consecutive defeat saw it drop into the danger zone.
Ra’anana (31 points) scored four goals for the first time this season in a 4-2 win over Maccabi Petah Tikva (24), which plummeted to last place. Goals from Asi Baldut (37) and Mamadou Toure (61) twice gave Ra’anana the lead, but Pedro Galvan (56) and Roei Dayan (82) twice leveled the score. However, Snir Shuker put Ra’anana back in front less than two minutes later and Raz Cohen secured all three points in the 90th minute, with Anthony Nwakaeme setting up all four of his team’s goals. Ramat Hasharon (27) remains in the relegation zone, but only due to its inferior goal difference after beating Hapoel Haifa 1-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium. Kenny Sayef scored the winner in the 14th minute before being sent off 40 seconds into the second half.
Hapoel Acre (30) and Bnei Yehuda (27) are also still deep in trouble after drawing 1-1 on Saturday. James Keene’s opener (37) was canceled out by Ismaeel Ryan’s (52) goal, with Bnei Yehuda goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba denying Juliano Spadacio’s penalty with five minutes to play.
On Sunday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Ashdod SC.
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