Maccabi Haifa midfielder Maor Buzaglo (right).
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Netanya squandered an opportunity to strengthen its position among the Premier League’s top sides on Saturday, drawing 1-1 at home with Maccabi Haifa.
Netanya dominated the first half and deserved to lead by more than a single goal. But the hosts couldn’t build on their impressive form after the break, allowing Haifa to equalize. Netanya’s inability to maintain the same level of play throughout 90 minutes has seen it win just two of its past five matches, leaving it four points behind leaders Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Beersheba and one point back of Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem.
Hapoel Haifa hosts Tel Aviv on Sunday, while Beersheba visits Jerusalem on Monday.
Eran Levy’s penalty in first-half stoppage time ensured Netanya went into the break with a well-earned lead. Haifa was unhappy the spot kick was awarded, believing defender Rami Gershon’s hand-ball shouldn’t have been punished.
Haifa improved in the second half and leveled the score seven minutes after Maor Buzaglo came on as a substitute.
Buzaglo was making his debut for Haifa, playing his first match since suffering a serious knee injury while still playing for Hapoel Beersheba back in April.
Sintiyahu Salalik provided the deadly finish for Haifa, making the most of some reckless passing by Netanya.
“There are a lot of good things we can take from this match. The commitment shown by the players, Buzaglo’s return and the fact we came back from behind against a good Netanya team,” said Haifa coach Guy Luzon, who was watched from the stands by new technical director Mo Allach.
Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin found the back of the net for the first time in almost two months, with Firas Mugrabi netting a brace (21, 58) to secure a 2-1 comeback win over Hapoel Ashkelon. Goodness Ajayi had given Ashkelon the lead in the fourth minute.
Sakhnin snapped a four-match winless streak, registering its first victory since defeating Beitar Jerusalem 3-2 on October 2, which was also the last game in which it scored a goal.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona beat Bnei Yehuda 2-1 earlier Saturday, leapfrogging its opponent in the standings.
Ismaeel Ryan (71) and Sean Weissman (87) scored for Kiryat Shmona, with Nerijus Valskis (89) netting for Bnei Yehuda, which ended the match with 10 men following Maor Kandil’s sending off in stoppage time.
Maccabi Petah Tikva returned to winning ways with a 1-0 win at Hapoel Acre courtesy of Abdi Farhat’s 82nd-minute own goal.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to rebound from yet another disappointing defeat in Europe and move tied on 23 points with Hapoel Haifa when it visits the leader.
Maccabi is on the verge of making unwanted history after dropping to a 2-0 loss to Slavia Prague in Europa League action in Netanya on Thursday.
Should Maccabi fail to find the back of the net in its final group game at Villarreal it will become the first team in the history of the competition to fail to score a single goal in an entire group campaign.
Maccabi, which has won three of its past four league matches, enters the contest in Haifa three points back of the leader, which suffered it’s first loss of the campaign in its previous match against Netanya.
“We need to win. It’s an important game and we have to be strong and get the points,” said Maccabi coach Jordi Cruyff.
Hapoel Beersheba, which only trails Haifa on goal difference, visits Beitar Jerusalem on Monday. Beitar is three points back of first place.
Elsewhere Sunday, Ashdod SC hosts Hapoel Ra’anana.