Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Eran Zahavi .
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Acre’s great escape from relegation continued on Saturday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv remained on course for a third straight Premier League title despite once more failing to win on the road.
Acre climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time in more than five months with a 2-0 victory at Hapoel Petah Tikva, claiming its fourth win from the past seven matches after recording just two victories from its previous 23 contests.
Acre looked to be all but demoted to the National League two months ago. However, its fate is in its own hands entering the final three games of the campaign following the recent run of results, moving two points clear of Hapoel Haifa in 13th place and three points in front of rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva.
“We are playing our best soccer right now and I think we deserve to stay up,” said Acre coach Shlomi Dora.
Branislav Jovanovic (41) and Edi Gotlieb (86) scored for Acre.
Ashdod SC also remains in deep trouble in the battle for survival, sitting three points clear of the relegation zone after drawing 0-0 with Hapoel Haifa on Saturday.
Ashdod’s winless streak reached 12 matches after failing to find the back of the net for a fourth straight game. Haifa snapped its four-match losing streak, but has now gone five consecutive contests without scoring a goal.
Meanwhile at the top of the table, Maccabi Tel Aviv moved 11 points clear after drawing 1-1 at Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Maccabi requires eight points from its final five matches to clinch the league title regardless of other results after coming back from a goal down with 10 men to draw at Petah Tikva. However, the yellow-and-blue failed to win on the road for a fifth straight match, a streak stretching back more than three months.
Maccabi was left with 10 men following Omri Ben-Harush’s sending off for a second bookable offense in the 36th minute, which also gave the hosts a penalty, converted by Roei Dayan. However, Tel Aviv moved back on level terms just three minutes later courtesy of an Eran Zahavi spot kick, taking his tally for the season to 26 goals, four shy of Nissim Elmalich’s record for goals in a season from the 1954/55 campaign with five more matches to play.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Ra’anana and Hapoel Tel Aviv drew 2-2. Shoval Gozlan (42) and Eli Babayev (45) gave Ra’anana a two-goal lead before Shay Abutbul (75) and Izuegbu Abonima (89) leveled the score.
Bnei Sakhnin moved up to seventh place at the expense of Maccabi Netanya, claiming a 3-2 victory over the latter thanks to Diogo Kachuba’s stoppage- time winner.
Eran Levy (47) and Olarenwaju Kayode (88) had canceled Sakhnin’s lead established by Mohammad Ghadir (12) and Ataa Jaber (37), but Kachuba popped up with the winner in the 93rd minute to give the visitors all three points.
The battle for European qualification continues on Sunday when Hapoel Beersheba visits Beitar Jerusalem, while Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Maccabi Haifa on Monday.