Bnei Yehuda was relegated from the Premier League after 12 years following a remarkably dramatic final day in the battle against demotion to the National League on Saturday.
Bnei Yehuda could only manage a 1-1 draw against Ashdod SC at Bloomfield Stadium and Maccabi Petah Tikva survived at its expense thanks to Roei Dayan’s 91st-minute winner from the penalty spot, securing a 2-1 victory over Hapoel Haifa. Petah Tikva’s victory also relegated Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, which defeated Hapoel Acre 2-1 courtesy of Emir Hadzic’s 93rd-minute goal but was demoted due to its inferior goal difference.
Bnei Yehuda, which has played in the top flight in 29 of the past 30 years, began the night in the much sought after 12th place, knowing its fate is in its own hands and that a victory over Ashdod would be enough to extend its stay in the Premier League.
However, Yossi Abuksis’s team squandered numerous scoring opportunities, including an astonishing miss from Gil Yitzhak in front of an empty goal from two meters out, and found itself in a 1-0 deficit following Bentzi Moshel’s 74th-minute strike. Amir Agajev leveled the score in the 85th minute, a goal which at that stage was enough to secure Bnei Yehuda’s topflight status. But after seeing his opener canceled out by Zarko Korac in the 67th minute, Dayan netted his second goal of the night from the spot in stoppage time to spark wild celebrations in Petah Tikva, including by the club’s most famous fan, Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon, and his son Yitav, who took charge of the team with Kobi Refua earlier this season.
Ramat Hasharon took an early lead through Hadzic (3), but it required both Bnei Yehuda and Petah Tikva to slip up to have any chance of surviving. Hamdi Salihi (28) equalized for Acre, and despite Hadzic’s 93-minute winner, Ramat Hasharon was relegated.
The battle for fourth place and Europa League qualification heated up on Saturday after Maccabi Haifa closed to within a single point of Hapoel Tel Aviv. Goals from Ruben Rayos (35) and Alon Turgeman (69) gave Haifa a 2-0 victory at Bnei Sakhnin, while Tel Aviv lost 2-1 to Hapoel Beersheba.
Maor Buzaglo (33) and Glynor Plet (78) scored for Beersheba, with Sagiv Yehezkel (80) netting Tel Aviv’s consolation goal.
The top six teams will play again midweek before completing their season next weekend.