Maccabi Tel Aviv notched its 10th win in its past 11 Premier League matches on Sunday night, defeating Bnei Sakhnin 2-0 in Netanya to ensure it will take a three-point gap over Hapoel Beersheba into next week’s showdown between the top two.
Maccabi defender Carlos Garcia was ruled out right before the kickoff due to injury, forcing coach Paulo Sousa to insert Maharan Radi into the starting lineup. Radi would ultimately make the difference, twice slicing the Sakhnin defense with deft passes that resulted in Tel Aviv’s two goals.
After less than six minutes, Barak Itzhaki converted Radi’s through ball into the opener, with Rade Prica all but clinching the three points by the break, scoring two minutes from halftime thanks to another long-range delivery from Radi.
Any hope Sakhnin had of mounting a comeback was dashed 10 minutes into the second half after Khaled Khalaila was sent off for picking up a reckless second yellow card.
Maccabi, which showed no lasting effects from its shock State Cup exit at the hands of Ashdod SC last week, hosts Beersheba at Bloomfield Stadium in a mouthwatering match between the league’s two best sides next Sunday.
Sakhnin, which hosted the match in Netanya after being punished for its fans’ unruly behavior, next visits Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, hoping to snap its winless streak that reached five games on Sunday.
Despite its outstanding campaign so far, Maccabi strengthened its squad with two more players on Sunday, adding French left-back Remi Mareval as well as officially signing Israeli striker Barak Badash. The 30-year-old Mareval joined from Belgian club Gent until the end of the season.
The 31-year-old Badash, who signed a one-and-a-half year contract, joins a forward line that includes, Itzhaki, Prica, Munas Dabbur and Tal Ben-Haim.
“I received an excellent opportunity to join a big club and I hope to be able to pay back for the faith shown in me,” said Badash, who has scored five goals for Ironi Kiryat Shmona this season, including two against Maccabi three weeks ago, after returning to the club from Belgian outfit Beveren.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Acre at Teddy Stadium.