Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Nick Blackman.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to the summit of the Premier League standings with a convincing 4-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa on Saturday night, increasing the pressure on title rivals Hapoel Beersheba and Beitar Jerusalem ahead of their showdown at Turner Stadium on Sunday.
Tel Aviv, which moved one point above Beersheba and two in front of Beitar, will be hoping its impressive performance against Haifa will mark the start of another winning run after bouncing back from last week’s shock 1-0 loss to Hapoel Ra’anana.
Nick Blackman gave the yellow-and-blue the lead on 13 minutes before Spanish midfielder Jose Rodriguez, who was surprisingly handed his first league start in more two months, scored his first goal for the club in the 33rd minute and then doubled his tally in the 61st.
Substitute Ofir Davidzada wrapped up the scoring seven minutes from time.
Haifa, which had conceded a league-best 17 goals in its first 23 league games, could find itself seven points back of first place should Beersheba win on Sunday.
Beersheba has never lost a league match at Turner, a record run of 46 matches stretching back to the opening of the venue early in the 2014/15 campaign.
Beitar is also looking to extend an impressive streak, scoring at least one goal in 29 consecutive league matches.
Elsewhere Saturday, Hapoel Ra’anana claimed an important 2-1 win over Ashdod SC in the battle against relegation. Shimon Abuhazira netted a brace (25, 74) for Ra’anana, which moved eight points clear of the relegation zone. Bentzi Moshel (70) had equalized for Ashdod, which is just one spot and four points above the bottom two.
Fortunately for Ashdod, Hapoel Ashkelon dropped to a seventh straight loss, falling 2-0 to Bnei Sakhnin. Shlomi Azulay (12) and Jordan Faucher (30) scored for Sakhnin.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya came back from behind to beat Maccabi Haifa 2-1. Vicky Kahlon (25) and Eran Levy (34) scored for fifth-placed Netanya, overturning Omri Ben-Harush’s opener (22) for Haifa.