maccabi haifa 88.
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Haifa missed an opportunity to return to the top of the Premier League standings on Monday night, drawing 0-0 at Bnei Sakhnin.
Haifa didn't deserve any more than a single point, but very nearly snatched the win in the 89th minute when Lior Rafaelov's effort was denied only by the crossbar.
The draw leaves Haifa in second position, tied on 57 points with Hapoel Tel Aviv, but with an inferior goal difference.
Monday's result takes Sakhnin three points clear of Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan and 11th position, which leads to a relegation playoff.
Next week, Haifa hosts Hakoach, with Sakhnin visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv.
The following week, Haifa faces Hapoel at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in a match which could very well determine this season's champion.
After a slow start to the match by both teams, Haifa began to dominate the possession, but failed to translate it into scoring opportunities.
In the 27th minute, Maccabi reached its best chance of the first half when John Culma shot just wide from the edge of the area after some good buildup play.
Sakhnin never allowed Haifa to control the match and Okocha twice came close to making the breakthrough.
In the 30th minute he sent an acrobatic bicycle kick just over Nir Davidovich's goal and six minutes later he only had the 'keeper to beat, but made a complete mess of his shot.
Eight minutes into the second half, Haifa was only denied the lead by the woodwork after Thembinkosi Fanteni hit the post with a clever volley.
However, that was no more than a one-off, with the visitors desperately struggling to even threaten the Sakhnin goal for most of the second half.
Sakhnin was more than content with sitting back and taking a single point, but very nearly won the encounter.
Ibrahim Bassit was put through on goal in the 81st minute, but to Haifa's relief, he sent a weak effort straight at Davidovich.
Two minutes later, a good solo effort by substitute Eyal Golsa almost gave Haifa the win, and in the 89th minute another substitute was centimeters away from giving his team all three points.
Rafaelov toyed with the Sakhnin defense, but his thunderous shot was kept out by the crossbar and Haifa returned home still in second position.
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