maccabi tel aviv maccabi petah tikva 248.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Betar Jerusalem striker Barak Itzhaki's pre-match confidence of catching league leader Maccabi Haifa appeared to be completely unfounded on Saturday afternoon, as his team was haunted by its former coach Reuven Atar, whose Maccabi Netanya humiliated the cup holders in a magnificent 3-0 win.
In other action Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv failed to bounce back from last week's derby defeat, only managing a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Maccabi Petah Tikva, while Bnei Yehuda graced the Hatikva neighborhood crowd with a 2-1 win against Hapoel Ra'anana, courtesy of a brace from Argentine Pedro Galvan.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Beersheba annihilated Maccabi Ahi Nazareth 4-1, thanks to goals from Maor Mekikson, Ohad Kadousi and two from Yossi Ofir, while Hapoel Acre moved off the bottom and recorded its first win in impressive fashion, smashing four past Hapoel Haifa, courtesy of Shahar Siman-Tov, Roi Dayan, Liad Elmalich and Oshri Gita.
In Saturday's other match, Hapoel Petah Tikva and Hapoel Ramat Gan played out a goalless draw.
Maccabi Netanya 3 Betar Jerusalem 0
Betar started reasonably well at Netanya, with Itzhaki going close twice in the opening minutes.
But the home side soon took control and was rewarded with a 32nd-minute lead. Man-of-the-match Hen Ezra chipped the ball through to Shalev Menashe, who broke the Betar offside trap, kept his composure and curled the ball into the corner beyond the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Ariel Harush.
Nine minutes later, it was 2-0. Another Ezra pass found Snir Gueta, who raced clear beyond the sluggish Betar backline and rolled the ball home.
Betar came at Netanya at the start of the second period, and Amit Ben-Shushan had a great chance to pull one back from Itzhaki's pass, but his effort was tipped over the bar by Ivorian 'keeper Aristide Zogbo.
But just like in the first half, the hosts soon began to dominate, and found themselves three up on 69 minutes, owing, once again, to Ezra.
The playmaker burst through the middle, and after a couple of step-overs, sent in Ravid Gazal, who beautifully clipped the ball over the onrushing Harush.
Ben-Shushan came close to a consolation goal when he stole in at the near post to meet substitute Eliran Danin's cross, but Zogbo made a super save low down to his right to deny the Betar man.
Few could argue with Atar's assessment that his team had been a pleasure to watch.
"We were organized, moved the ball well, controlled the midfield, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before we would score," said the Netanya coach.
Atar also expressed his delight in the progress of Ezra, a player who he brought into the youth ranks during his first spell at the club, saying that after spending last season at Hapoel Kfar Saba, he was now ready to be "top player," for Netanya.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 1 Maccabi Petah Tikva 1
Calls for Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Avi Nimni to resign came from sections of the home crowd after another toothless performance from his side.
But Nimni took the criticism squarely on the chin, saying that "if the fans are disappointed, they have a right to be - we're also disappointed."
Maccabi had the better of a stale first half, and Yossi Shivhon should have found the target on 13 minutes, but skewed the ball into the side netting following Yuval Avidor's penetrating run.
Roni Gafni then collected a Shivon pass in a great position on the left, but drilled his effort wide.
The hosts took the lead on 33 minutes. Serbian Ivica Iliev took on Murad Megamadov, chipped in a cross, and Tamir Kahlon cracked a volley into the bottom corner for his first goal for the club.
The advantage proved to be short-lived, though, the visitors leveling two minutes before the break.
Rubil Sarsour cut the ball in from the right, Omer Buksenboim's shot was saved by the diving Liran Strauber, but the little midfielder reacted quickest to the rebound, which he squared to Omer Damari to tap home.
Petah Tikva came close to taking the lead twice at the start of the second period. First, Damari broke free from the right and found Freda, but the youngster dillydallied, and although he eventually found Sarsour, his shot under pressure was cleared.
Four minutes later, a Dan Roman corner was headed onto the bar by Avi Yehiel.
The rest of the second half petered out into a bore draw, with Maccabi unable to make the most of its possession, much to the displeasure of the home crowd.