Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Barak Itzhaki (center) scored his team’s opener in last night’s 3-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin and Sari Falah (right)..
(photo credit: DANI MARON/MAARIV)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will enter its upcoming clash with Hapoel Beersheba no more than three points back of the Premier League leader after continuing its relentless form on Saturday with a 3-0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin.
Maccabi moved level on 59 points with Beersheba, which can reestablish a threepoint gap when it hosts Maccabi Haifa in their championship playoff opener on Sunday.
Beersheba hosts Maccabi in two weeks following the international break, with Israel facing Spain in 2018 World Cup qualification on Friday. Tel Aviv registered its seventh straight league win, a fifth in a row since the hiring of new coach Lito Vidigal. The yellow-and-blue has conceded just a single goal over its winning streak, which began with a 1-0 triumph over Beersheba.
Maccabi, which has picked up 31 of a possible 33 points since the sacking of coach Shota Arveladze, had to wait until the 56th minute to break the deadlock on Saturday. Barak Itzhaki’s header gave the yellow-and-blue a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, with the striker netting his fourth goal in six matches since returning to the starting lineup.
New Portuguese midfielder Ruben Micael doubled the advantage in the 72nd minute with his first goal since joining in January before Tal Ben-Haim secured the three points five minutes later.
“The championship playoffs got off to a very good start and it was important for us to win the way we did,” said Maccabi captain Sheran Yeini. “I think we sent out a very good message.”
Starting from this weekend, the league is split into two sections. In the championship playoffs, the top six will play each other twice more for a total of 10 matches for every team. In the relegation playoffs, the bottom eight sides face one another one more time for a combined seven games each. The bottom two teams at the end of the season will be demoted to the National League.
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Ashkelon remained in the relegation spots on Saturday despite both claiming wins. Tel Aviv is still in last place, moving to 20 points after twice coming back from behind to beat Ironi Kiryat Shmona 3-2 on the road.
Eden Shamir (5) netted the opener and Yogev Hazorhoy (65) put the hosts back in front after Moti Bershatzki (27) had leveled the score for Hapoel. But Bershatzki equalized for a second time in the 76th minute and John Chibuike scored the winner five minutes from time.
Ashkelon is one point in front of Hapoel after defeating Hapoel Haifa 4-1.
David Manga (42), Matan Hozez (47) and Issoumaila Lingane (69, 85) scored for the visitors, with Eden Ben-Basat (45) netting Haifa’s consolation goal.
Dan Einbinder’s 56th-minute winner gave Beitar Jerusalem a 1-0 victory at Maccabi Petah Tikva, bringing it to within seven points of Petah Tikva in third place. Beitar, which lost Idan Vered to a red card in the 90th minute, is hoping the gap will be reduced to five points later this week after appealing its two-point deduction for racist chants.