Maccabi Tel Aviv players celebrate after securing their place in the State Cup last-16.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways and closed back within five points of Hapoel Beersheba at the top of the Premier League standings on Sunday night, beating rock-bottom Maccabi Netanya 3-1 in Petah Tikva.
After drawing its past two games, and with Beersheba winning six league matches in a row and 16 of 18, Maccabi found itself eight points back of first place ahead of Sunday’s encounter.
It was in danger of dropping two more precious points after Sa’ar Benbenishti (49) scored Netanya’s first goal in eight matches to cancel out Eden Ben-Basat’s 13th-minute opener. However, a poor clearance by Netanya goalkeeper Barak Levy in the 61st minute gifted Eran Zahavi his 25th league goal of the season, just five shy of the record, and substitute Tal Ben-Haim secured the three points six minutes from time, leaving Netanya 15 points from safety.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Haifa in Petah Tikva after the former dropped its threat not to show up for the match. Beitar was unhappy at having to host the game away from Teddy Stadium after being punished for the unruly behavior of its supporters in the match against Bnei Sakhnin.
Beitar owner Eli Tabib insisted his team would not turn up should the Israel Football Association not change its disciplinary court’s decision. Maccabi Haifa owner Jacob Shachar added fuel to the fire by saying his team would also stay at home, refusing to benefit from a technical 3-0 win.
The IFA claimed all along that should either team fail to show up it would be punished according to the regulations and be automatically relegated to the National League.
However, after a meeting between Premier League club representatives on Sunday, it was announced that the match would go ahead as planned.
Police said it would be responsible for the safety of the fans, which was sighted by Tabib as a major concern, and the clubs agreed that they would work together with the IFA so that teams will not be so easily sentenced to host games away from their home stadium.