Remi Mareval and Barak Badash scored on their Premier League debuts for Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday to lead the yellow-and-blue to a 2-0 victory at Maccabi Petah Tikva and open a nine-point gap at the top of the Premier League standings.
With the first leg of the Europa League round-of-32 against FC Basel coming up on Thursday, Tel Aviv coach Paulo Sousa made five changes to the lineup which beat second-place Hapoel Beersheba 3-1 last week.
French left-back Mareval and veteran Israeli striker Badash, who joined the team two weeks ago, were given their chance in the starting lineup on Saturday and made the most of the opportunity to help the yellow-andblue to its 12th victory from the past 13 games.
Maccabi was in complete control throughout the encounter, with Mareval (29) and Badash (47) netting the goals either side of the break.
“We were dominant,” said Sousa.
“Hopefully my players can rest mentally because we will have to be tactically outstanding against Basel. We did our best to rest them so that they will be ready for Thursday.”
Beersheba can close back to within six points when it hosts Bnei Sakhnin at Vasermil Stadium on Monday.
Omer Damari’s heroics saved Hapoel Tel Aviv from a second-straight defeat on Saturday, with the league’s top scorer taking his tally for the season to 17 goals to bring his team back from two-goals down to draw 2-2 against Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium.
Amir Agajev (44) and Ohad Kadusi (63) put the visitors in the driving seat, but the latter missed an outstanding chance to secure the three points when he fired over the crossbar with only the ‘keeper to beat and Damari salvaged a point for the Reds.
Damari scored in the 72nd and 85th minutes, meaning Bnei Yehuda has failed to convert a lead to a win in eight out of 11 matches this season.
Hapoel Acre took a significant step to securing itself another season of topflight soccer with a remarkable 4-3 victory over Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Ramat Hasharon led 3-1 at the break, with Emir Hadzic (10, 44) and Hasan Sayaf (19) scoring for the visitors and Ismaeel Ryan (18) for the hosts.
However, Acre would strike three times in eight second-half minutes, with a Hamdi Salihi (53, 57) brace and Guy Dayan (60) header turning the match on its head and moving Acre nine points clear of the relegation zone.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa and Ashdod SC drew 1-1. Amir Nusbaum (25) scored for Haifa, with Alexander Davidov leveling the score seven minutes later.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona continued its recent excellent form with a 2-0 victory at Hapoel Ra’anana. Mindaugas Panka (44) and Weeam Amasha (90) scored for the winners.
Beitar Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.
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