(photo credit: )
Maccabi Haifa profited most from the 0-0 draw between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda on Monday night.
The two played out an enthralling, yet scoreless, tie at Bloomfield Stadium, which means that Haifa now sits two points clear of the other two at the top of the Premier League with all three having played three games so far this season.
Maccabi's fans returned in their droves to see their team give its all against a resilient Bnei Yehuda, but despite Maccabi coach Avi Nimni enjoying the luxury of an almost-full squad at his disposal, the fans were left disappointed as the spoils were shared.
"We created the better chances and it is a shame we could not make them count," Nimni said.
Bnei Yehuda coach Guy Luzon was pleased with the final outcome.
"I think this is a fair result, although both teams had plenty of chances to win the match," he said.
Entering the match, the two sides knew that a victory would put them level on points with Haifa, so it was no surprise that the game was played to a very high tempo throughout.
Both Maccabi and Bnei Yehuda set out to attack, and as a consequence, the game was an extremely open affair.
As early as the second minute Bnei Yehuda forced a corner from which striker Eliran Atar tested Maccabi goalkeeper Liran Strauber.
And within seconds the ball was down the other end and Maccabi had a golden chance to score.
Ilya Yavruyan was sent through one-on-one against Bnei Yehuda goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba, but the Armenian striker's touch took him too far past the onrushing 'keeper and by the time he had recovered the ball, the chance was gone.
Although there were a few periods of relative calm, the first half continued at the same frantic pace with which it started and both teams had plenty of chances to get on the scoresheet.
While Maccabi had more of the ball, Bnei Yehuda threatened frequently on the counterattack, and only some poor finishing by each side kept the score goalless as the match moved towards the break.
After such a high-octane start to the game, it was quite a surprise that the interval was reached without a goal being scored, and both teams returned to the pitch a full five minutes early, a sure sign that the players were desperate to see their team defeat the other.
Yavruyan seemed especially eager to break Bnei Yehuda's back line down, regularly making intelligent runs across the opposing defense and scampering down the right wing; but Bnei Yehuda held strong.
Although both teams were intent on playing attacking football, neither side's attacks proved able to benefit from the free-flowing passing game, each squandering several opportunities to score.
Bnei Yehuda's Liroy Zhairi was guilty of a couple of bad misses, and his teammate Pedro Galvan passed up a great chance to give his side the lead when he was sent clear halfway through the second half, but screwed his shot horribly wide.
Emmanuel Mayuka squandered the best chance of the match in the 76th minute when he blasted over with only Aiyenugba to beat.
With four minutes left on the clock, time stood still as Bnei Yehiuda winger Maharan Radi sent in a beautiful cross from deep and striker Moshe Biton jumped high to connect with it, but his header was terribly directed and missed the target by a matter of meters.
Before the match, Noam Schalit, father of captured soldier Gilad, was welcomed onto the pitch and was presented with a Maccabi shirt with his son's name written on the back.
Schalit told the crowd that Gilad is a Maccabi fan, and Maccabi fans held aloft a sign reading "Gilad Schalit - Maccabi waits for you."