Ashdod SC vs Maccabi Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: LIRON MOLDOVAN /BSL)
Maccabi Tel Aviv squandered two precious points in the title race and could drop down to third place in the Premier League standings on Sunday night after being held to a 0-0 draw at Ashdod SC on Saturday.
After returning to first place with an impressive 4-0 win over Hapoel Haifa last weekend, Maccabi couldn’t break down a resilient Ashdod and picked up just a single point to move to 52. Ashdod remained one spot above the relegation zone, but increased its gap from the bottom two to five points.
Tel Aviv is one point in front of reigning champion Hapoel Beersheba, with both teams having a plus-22 goal difference. Beitar is another point further back and has a plus-25 goal difference.
Beersheba visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday, while Beitar hosts rock-bottom Hapoel Acre.
“We didn’t control the game and didn’t really have the possession,” said Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Jordi Cruyff. “We have lost a lot of points against teams that are lower in the standings and taken points in tough games. Today is a disappointing feeling and now we need to think about the next game. We need to continue as this is a marathon, but for sure inside we feel like we lost two points.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Diya Saba netted his league-best 18th goal of the season to help Maccabi Netanya to a 2-0 win over the slumping Hapoel Ashkelon. Yonas Malede gave Netanya the lead in the 55th minute, with Saba scoring 14 minutes later.
Yossi Benayoun scored for the fourth time in five matches for Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday, with Johan Martial netting an 87th-minute winner for Petah Tikva in a 3-2 victory over Hapoel Ra’anana. Mohammad Kalibat gave Ra’anana the lead in the fourth minute and equalized in the 59th after Benayoun (25) and Lidor Cohen (54) had scored for the hosts.
Also Saturday, Nerijus Valskis’s stoppage- time equalizer gave Bnei Yehuda a 2-2 draw with Bnei Sakhnin. The hosts led twice through Yuval Avidor (24) and Firas Mugrabi (49), with Matan Hozez (34) netting Bnei Yehuda’s first goal.
Despite entering the weekend trailing Maccabi Tel Aviv in first place only on goals scored, pressure at Beersheba is clearly building. The two-time defending champion is aiming to get March off on the right foot at Kiryat Shmona, four days after being knocked out of the State Cup at the same ground. A 1-0 defeat to Kiryat Shmona in the second leg of the quarterfinals capped a miserable month for Beersheba.
Barak Bachar’s side began February with a 1-0 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv, which saw it relinquish first place in the league standings. It then followed it up with a 1-1 first leg draw against Kiryat Shmona and league victories over Ashdod and Petah Tikva. Hapoel was lucky to get away with a 1-1 draw against Beitar Jerusalem at Turner last Sunday, which left it in second place.
Beitar is a massive favorite to get back to winning ways when it visits Acre, which has lost seven of its last eight games. Beitar came close to becoming the first team to beat Beersheba at Turner in league action last week, but nevertheless proved beyond doubt that it is capable of going all the way this season.