Beitar Jerusalem striker Omer Atzili.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv dropped two important points in the Premier League title race on Monday night after an Omer Atzili header three minutes into stoppage time gave Beitar Jerusalem a 1-1 draw at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.
Another moment of brilliance by Eran Zahavi in the 61st minute seemed to have given the defending champion all three points. With three players surrounding him, the yellow-and-blue midfielder somehow found the back of the net with an acrobatic volley, scoring for his 15th straight league match, taking his overall tally over that period to 22 goals, 13 of them this season.
However, Maccabi remained in third place and is now four points back of league-leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona after Atzili’s stunning equalizer.
Maccabi surely felt it should have had the lead at the halftime interval after being denied by the crossbar three times during a frantic four-minute stretch. Tal Ben-Haim, Carlos Garcia and Dor Micha all hit the woodwork and it would require another piece of magic by Zahavi to break the deadlock before Atzili leveled the score.
Also Monday, Hapoel Petah Tikva claimed its first win in the derby since 2011, beating Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1. Liroy Zhairi’s delicate chip gave the visitors the lead after 38 minutes, with Dedi Ben-Dayan equalizing 12 minutes into the second half.
However, Omri Altman headed in the winner in the 72nd minute to give Hapoel a sweet win which lifted it off the bottom of the standings and snapped Maccabi’s six match unbeaten streak.