Maccabi Haifa will have to wait at least another week before it officially wins its third consecutive Premier League championship.
The greens hoped to beat hosting Ashdod to make the gap between first and second place unbridgeable. But Haifa failed to impress and barely managed a draw after Shai Holtzman scored his 17th goal of the season for the hosts.
Hapoel Tel Aviv failed to take advantage of the result in Ashdod and was unable to overcome ten-man Netanya. The 1-1 draw ruined Hapoel coach Dror Kashtan's pre-game hope that his side would put Haifa under increased pressure towards the finish line.
The relegation battle is continuing to excite, with Eli Ohana's Kfar Saba beating Bnei Yehuda and Motti Ivanir's Upper Nazareth completing a spirited comeback against Bnei Sakhnin, which has fallen into last place.
The last game of Game Day 29 will be played tonight (20:50, Channel 10) as off-form Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Luis Fernandez's unpredictable Betar Jerusalem at Bloomfield. The Tel Aviv team has not won for seven straight games but Maccabi coach Ton Caanen will finally have Avi Nimni, Eyal Berkovic and Giovanni Rosso in his starting eleven, as all have recovered from prolonged injuries.
In Ashdod, both the hosts Ashdod SC and visiting Maccabi Haifa failed to impress in the first half with Gustavo Boccoli and Idan Tal failing to dominate the midfield for the greens, resulting in very few chances upfront for Roberto Colautti.
Ashdod stunned the reigning champion in the 75th minute when Shai Holtzman received the ball in the box and drilled an unstopable shot into the goal, leaving Haifa 'keeper Nir Davidovitch helpless.
But Haifa found its way back into the game just four minutes later when Adir Tubul scored an own goal while trying to clear the ball in the box.
"Ashdod is a great team at home and I hope we can do the job next week at home," disappointed Haifa coach Roni Levy said after the game and declined to comment when asked about Haifa's poor form in the third round.
Upper Nazareth 2, Beni Sakhnin 1
Ahmed Kasum dribbled past the Nazareth midfielders and flicked the ball towards Pasqual Kondafoni, who made no mistake and chipped the ball into the far corner to give the visitors the lead in the 43rd minute.
But Kondafoni chose to celebrate his goal by taking off his shirt, leaving referee Eitan Tavrizi with no option but to show him his second yellow card and end his participation in the game.
Nazareth made the visitors pay in the first minute of the second half when veteran Eyal Ben Ami tapped in from close range after being set up brilliantly by Guillermo Israelevic.
Haim Binun completed the hostâ€šs comeback in the 62nd minute with a fierce strike from 25 meters, which hit the post and rebounded off Sakhnin keeper Meir Cohen before rolling into the back of the net.
Maccabi Netanya 1, Hapoel Tel Aviv 1
Netanya broke the deadlock in the sixth minute when Papi Kimoto crossed the ball towards Okocha, who took full advantage of a mix-up in the Tel Aviv defence and provided the finish.
Okocha soon became the second goalscorer to be sent off this weekend, after receiving the red card for committing an unsporting foul on Tal Chen in the 26th minute.
Tel Aviv drew level after numerous attempts when the Netanya defence failed to clear a Yossi Abuksis free kick, enabling Ilya Yevorian to score his sixth goal of the season in the 72nd minute.
The reds pushed ahead in the remaining minutes looking for the winner, but even seven minutes of stoppage time didnâ€št help and captain Yossi Abuksis was sent off after arguing with the linesman.
Bnei Yehuda 0, Hapoel Kfar Saba 1
Very few chances were created in front of both goals, but Kfar Saba scored the only goal in the game in the 70th minute that turned out to be the winner.
A penalty was awarded to the visitors after veteran striker Oren Nissim was fouled in the penalty area after performing a slick slalom. Former Bnei Yehuda playmaker Ben Luz made no mistake and fired in the spot kick to give Kfar Saba three valuable points.
"Every win is important and this was another one," optimistic Kfar Saba coach Eli Ohana said after the win. "We don't know what other teams are doing and are totally focused on our mission, which is staying in the league."
Hapoel Petach Tikva 1, Maccabi Petach Tikva 1
In Friday afternoon's fixture, a late goal by Yossi Shivkhon (78) was enough to erase Maccabi Petah Tikva's advantage that came after a spectacular Patrick Suffo bicycle kick in the 50th minute.
Maccabi's star forward Omer Golan suffered a serious head injury in the 48th minute after entering a tough tackle with Toto Tamuz. Golan is currently diagnosed with concussion and will undergo more tests later this week.
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