Moshe Biton breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday afternoon after breaking his year-long goal drought in Bnei Yehuda's 2-0 win at Bloomfield Stadium against a Hapoel Haifa side which suffered its second defeat on the spin and appears to be losing its early season self-belief.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv will be going into next week's derby against Hapoel brimming with confidence after climbing into second place with a 3-1 home win against Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya took a two-goal lead through Ahmad Saba'a and Ravid Gazal at home to Hapoel Beersheba, only to end up drawing 2-2.
Netanya was lucky not to lose to Guy Azuri's Beersheba, which missed a hatful of chances to go on and win the game after leveling through Lior Asulin and Pavel Pergl.
Aside from the Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Tel Aviv games, all of Saturday's matches finished tied.
Marco Balbul got off to a disappointing start as new Bnei Sakhnin coach, his team only managing a 1-1 home draw against bottom side Hapoel Ra'anana after Sergio Kado's early goal was canceled out by the away side's Brazilian striker, Cristiano Dos Santos.
At Ashdod, Rahamim Tchukul's goal just after half-time gave the home side a 1-1 draw against Maccabi Petah Tikva following Dan Roman's opener.
And Hapoel Petah Tikva against Hapoel Acre also ended one apiece, courtesy of two goals in two minutes - the first by Petah Tikva's Osman Bashiru and the second by Acre's Shahar Siman Tov.
Bnei Yehuda 2, Hapoel Haifa 0
Few could argue that, as coach Guy Luzon commented, had the team "been more focused in front of goal" Bnei Yehuda could have scored eight or nine.
The game began at an exhilarating pace, and after a pile-driver from Haifa's Eran Levy curled inches wide, Argentine Pedro Galvan was just as close with his shot from distance at the other end.
Eliran Atar then cracked a first time volley over from Omri Afek's cross.
Yero Bello had a glorious opportunity to put Haifa ahead, but after latching onto Ran Abukarat's pass, the Nigerian striker never really got hold of the ball, and it was clawed away by his fellow countryman Dele Aiyenugba.
At the start of the second period, Atar struck the foot of the post after collecting Afek's pass on the right, and he soon rattled the woodwork again, this time the bar, after showing some nifty footwork and letting fly from the edge of the box.
Just when it seemed like it just might not be Atar and Bnei Yehuda's day, the youngster finally got the goal the hosts' dominance deserved.
Man of the match Afek sent in an out-swinging cross from the right, and Atar angled a header into the left corner 11 minutes from time.
Biton's moment of magic came with five minutes to go, and only moments after Haifa's American midfielder Bryan Gerzicich was dismissed for a bad challenge.
After collecting Kfir Edri's pass on the left, the striker wriggled his way past three men, and his deft chip from a tight angle beat Haifa 'keeper Galil Ben-Shaanan before nestling into the corner.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 3, Hapoel Ramat Gan 1
Patience is the name of the game, a "very pleased" Avi Nimni was at pains to stress after his team eventually saw off Hapoel Ramat Gan following a largely unimpressive performance.
And, with a young side sitting pretty in second place despite not fully gelling yet, the coach's cautious optimism was understandable.
Hapoel took a surprise but well-deserved 14th minute lead when Brazilian William Soares soared above his marker to head in Benny Haddad's free-kick.
But Guillermo Israelevich got Maccabi out of jail three minutes before the interval, slamming the ball home after Ramat Gan 'keeper Rafi Cohen punched a Zion Zemah corner to the edge of the box.
The hosts finally went in front just after the hour mark. Carlos Chacana brought down Ilica Iliev inside the penalty area and Maccabi's Serbian midfielder duly dispatched the spot-kick.
And Tel Aviv wrapped up the points in the 88th minute when an exquisite pass from Andrej Komac found fellow substitute Emmanuel Mayuka, who knocked the ball passed Cohen and slotted it into the empty net.
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