B'nei Yehuda forward Almog Buzaglo celebrates his first of two goals in a match against Beitar Jerusalem.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Haifa suffered its first defeat of the Premier League campaign on Saturday night, but Beitar Jerusalem missed an opportunity to climb up to first place at its expense after being stunned by Bnei Yehuda.
Maccabi Netanya ended Haifa’s nine-match unbeaten run to start the season with a 2-0 win over the leader. Beitar could have moved up to first with a victory over Bnei Yehuda, but it was the host side which claimed a dramatic 3-2 win thanks to an 89th-minute goal by Lithuanian Nerijus Valskis.
Netanya fully deserved its win on Saturday, but Haifa was outraged with referee Roei Reinshreiber at the final whistle. The visitors were unhappy with the decision to award Netanya a penalty in the first half, believing Diya Saba fell too easily.
Eran Levy converted the spot kick against his former team in the 39th minute, with Haifa conceding a goal for the first time since drawing 1-1 with Hapoel Beersheba over a month ago.
Netanya doubled its advantage in the 59th minute through Aviv Avraham and Haifa lost all hope of mounting a comeback in the 75th minute.
Substitute Eden Ben-Basat was sent off after receiving a second yellow card when Reinshreiber failed to spot that Netanya goalkeeper Golan Elkaslasi had faked being struck by the striker’s lunging tackle.
“The first loss had to arrive at some stage and Netanya was the better team,” said Haifa coach Nir Klinger.
Beitar looked set to go top after a penalty by Claudemir (33) and a header from Tal Kahila (44) canceled out Almog Buzaglo’s 22nd-minute opener. However, Buzaglo would equalize in the 60th minute and Valskis netted the winner one minute from time after a well-worked break for-ward by the hosts.
“It is disappointing to lose a game like this because we knew Bnei Yehuda would try and hit us on the break and we couldn’t stop them,” said Beitar coach Benny Ben-Zaken. “We weren’t thinking about climbing up to first place and just really wanted to continue our momentum. We will have to start over after the international break.”
Elsewhere, Hapoel Acre registered its second win of the season to move out of the relegation zone, beating Ashdod SC 1-0 through Gabriel Knaykovski goal in the 30th minute.
On Sunday, Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv will aim to move within three points of the summit. Beersheba, which entered the weekend having played one match fewer than the leaders, visits Maccabi Petah Tikva after drawing 1-1 at Steaua Bucharest in Europa League action on Thursday. Beersheba moved to four points in Group G and still has its fate in its own hands entering its final two matches, at Lugano in Switzerland and against Viktoria Plzen at Turner Stadium.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which lost all hope of progressing in the Europa League after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Astana of Kazakhstan in Netanya on Thursday, will look to bounce back with a win at Hapoel Ra’anana on Sunday.
Also Sunday, Guy Luzon could be coaching Maccabi Haifa for the last time when the Greens host Bnei Sakhnin.
Luzon’s job is in jeopardy as Haifa has won just three of its first nine match-es, and with the club looking to bring in a European sports director who will likely want to hire his own coach.
On Monday, Hapoel Ashkelon hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona.