Betar Jerusalem has returned to its winning ways.
The yellow-and-black produced one of their best performances under Luis Fernandez, thrashing Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda 3-0 and rising up to second place in the Premier League standings, at least until the season's final Tel Aviv derby, the final fixture of Matchday 28, on Sunday.
Ton Caanen's Maccabi will have captain and top goalscorer Avi Nimni back in his starting 11 and Croatian international Giovanni Rosso will also be available after recovering from a nagging injury.
Reigning champion and league frontrunner Maccabi Haifa hosted Maccabi Netanya at Kiryat Eliezer on Saturday and managed a 2-1 win despite an unconvincing and weak performance.
Haifa now needs only one win from its five remaining games to claim its third consecutive championship and a possible domestic triple. Next week, the greens travel south to take on Yossi Mizrahi's Ashdod SC.
Hapoel Kfar Saba's unbeaten streak is still alive as it managed a goalless draw with Hapoel Petah Tikva to collect another point.
Upper Nazareth and Bnei Sakhnin provided disappointing performances in their respective 1-0 and 3-0 losses to Maccabi Petah Tikva and Ashdod SC.
Betar Jerusalem 3, Bnei Yehuda 0
Igor Mitresky drew first blood for the yellow-andblack in the 28th minute. The dynamic sweeper came ahead to pressure the Bnei Yehuda defense and knocked the ball into the goal from the middle of the area.
Betar was awarded a penalty just five minutes later after Yaniv Elul handled the ball in the box, but David Aganzo was unable to score. His spot kick hit the right post and was cleared by the visitors.
The hosts continued to exert offensive pressure and struck again in the 36th minute. Amit Ben-Shushan took control of the ball on the left flank and crossed the ball to Aviram Bruchian, who was on target to make it 2-0.
The second half was played in similar fashion, and Barak Yitzhaki scored another goal for the yellow-and-black after a well-crafted attack in the 65th minute.
Bnei Yehuda defender Roni Gafny was sent off in the 81st minute after committing a brutal foul on Bruchian.
"We started the game in convincing fashion and the fans were fantastic today," Fernandez summarized after the game. "These kids play wonderful soccer. They have a great future."
Maccabi Haifa 2, Maccabi Netanya 1
Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya surprised the league leaders with a tactically sound performance, with Tal Banin using all his experience in midfield to navigate the visitors' attacks.
However, Haifa struck first when Argentinean striker Roberto Colautti finished off a Klemi Saban-led counterattack with simple header in the seventh minute.
Netanya kept pressing forward and found the equalizer in the 20th minute. Papi Kimoto fired a long-range shot that was mishandled by Haifa 'keeper Nir Davidovitch. Amir Taga was on target with the rebound and made it 1-1.
Haifa pressed Netanya in the second half and its hard work paid off.
Colautti launched a low drive from 20 meters away that was punched away by Avi Peretz but Gustavo Boccoli used his instincts and tapped in from close range to score the winner.
Hapoel Kfar Saba 0, Hapoel Petah Tikva 0
After a lackluster first half, Kfar Saba decided to send all its players ahead to look for the winner. But Samuel Yeboah was inaccurate in front of goal and failed to convert from his chances.
Kfar Saba coach Eli Ohana inserted forward Zoran Rayovic in the closing minutes to fortify his attack, but Petah Tikva 'keeper Silvia Chabalina was rock solid in goal and succeeded in maintaining a clean sheet.
"A very poor first half," said a disappointed Ohana after the game. "We dominated the game in the second half and it's disappointing that we couldn't score..."
Maccabi Petah Tikva 1, Upper Nazareth
Upper Nazareth looked like the better team throughout the match and enjoyed most of the ball possession but failed to break through "The Luzons'" well-organized rearguard.
Petah Tikva's Salim Toema entered the game at the start of the first half, and the creative playmaker brought a much-needed change in the flow of the game.
Toema found Ismael Amar on the right flank, with the latter lofting a deft cross into Nazareth's penalty area. Omer Golan, who was lurking unmarked in the area, fired in the winner in the 81st minute.
Bnei Sakhnin 0, Ashdod SC 3
In Friday's Matchday 28 opener, Sakhnin dominated the midfield in the opening stages and created chances up front, but Ashdod managed to hold off the hosts.
Substitute Moshe Ohayon gave the visitors the lead with a close-range header in the 72nd minute and Shai Holtzman completed the rout by adding two more (81â€š 86).
Sakhnin president Mazen Ganaim was involved in a violent incident after the tough loss, when many of the team's frustrated fans entered the field and rioted.
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