Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Ashdod SC to move tied on points with the league-leader, while Maccabi Haifa finally claimed its first win of the season, beating Hapoel Ramat Gan 2-0.

Tel Aviv suffered its first defeat of the campaign last week after opening the season with four consecutive wins, but it got right back on track at Bloomfield Stadium by ending Ashdod’s perfect start.

Dor Micha gave Tel Aviv the lead after 18 minutes, but the hosts failed to score again in a dominant first half and Ashdod got back on level terms seven minutes after the break thanks to Dimitar Makriev’s header.

However, it took the yellow-and-blue just three minutes to move back in front, and this time for good, with substitute Robert Earnshaw scoring his first goal for the club after a swift turn in the box which wrongfooted Ashdod ‘keeper Ofir Marziano.

“We played against the best team in the league at the moment and I’m happy because the fans are happy,” said Tel Aviv coach Oscar Garcia.

“They are proud because their team played 100 percent all the time and I think this is the way.”

Haifa was far from impressive against the newly-promoted Ramat Gan at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, but it won’t care one bit after finally registering its first victory of the season.

Haifa had picked up just two points from its first five matches, marking its worst ever start to a league campaign, and the pressure of recent results was clearly taking its toll on the players on Saturday.

However, Ramat Gan’s Israel Zaguri did his former team a massive favor eight minutes from halftime when he recklessly lashed out at Liroy Zhairi and was duly sent off.

It took Haifa just six minutes to convert its one-man advantage to a goal, with Dino Ndlovu finding the back of the net with a powerful header from Hen Ezra’s corner kick.

Despite being in a comfortable position, Haifa only seemed interested in reaching the final whistle with its lead still intact rather than trying to increase its advantage.

It had to endure a nervy second half before finally clinching all three points when Idan Vered scored in the second minute of stoppage time, with Ramat Gan ending the match with nine men after the sending off of Bernard Onanga in the 88th minute.

“I had forgotten how it felt to win,” said Haifa’s very relieved coach Reuven Atar.

“We had a good first half, but in the second half our legs got heavy.

“We played nothing like the way we should have because of everything that happened over the past month.

“I believe that we will embark on a good run after this win.”

Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Haifa are still searching for their first wins of the season and continue to occupy the last two spots of the standings.

Sakhnin came painfully close to recording its debut victory on Saturday, but a Pedro Galvan goal three minutes into stoppage time snatched a 2-2 draw for Bnei Yehuda at Doha Stadium.

Yero Bello (15) and Allah Abu Saleh (23) put Sakhnin in an ideal position, but Abu Saleh’s own goal handed Bnei Yehuda a lifeline and Galvan netted a dramatic equalizer.

Hapoel Haifa dropped to a 2-0 defeat at the surprising Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.

Kobi Musa (28) and Asi Baldut (55) scored for Ramat Hasharon, which extended its unbeaten run to five matches despite losing Or Ostvind to a red card in the 65th minute.

Maccabi Netanya’s disappointing start to the season continued on Saturday when it suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Hapoel Acre.

Netanya went ahead through Idan Shriki in the second minute of the second half, but it took Acre just one minute to equalize courtesy of Ohad Kadusi and Yuval Shabtai (68) and David Gomez (93) completed the comeback.

Hapoel Tel Aviv’s match against Betar Jerusalem and Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s encounter with Hapoel Beersheba were postponed to October 29 due to Tel Aviv’s and Kiryat Shmona’s participation in the Europa League.

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