Hapoel Tel Aviv dropped two vital points in the championship race on Tuesday night, drawing 1-1 with Hapoel Acre at Nazareth's Green Stadium.
Tel Aviv took the lead in the third minute of the encounter, which was postponed from December 12 because of a waterlogged pitch, and seemed to be on its way to a ninth straight Premier League victory.
However, the visitors were poor after taking the early advantage and Acre, which only had a nine-match unbeaten streak snapped over the weekend, equalized in the 52nd minute and held on for the point after Tel Aviv's Vincent Enyeama missed a penalty in the 68th minute.
"We didn't play well and we struggled against Acre's defense," said Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman, whose side now trails Maccabi Haifa by eight points.
"We didn't pass the ball well and failed to create chances."
Acre coach Yaron Hochenboim was unsurprisingly delighted with the shock draw.
"It is not easy to come back from such an early deficit. I'm proud of my players," Hochenboim said.
Tel Aviv needed just three minutes to go into the lead. Itai Shechter stole the ball at the center of the field and picked out Maharan Lala, who had no trouble slotting in the opener.
The visitors completely switched off after that, but Acre failed to take advantage. The hosts really created just one scoring opportunity in the first half, with Dudi Fadlon's dangerous header being denied by Enyeama.
Hochenboim's halftime talk did Acre a world of good and the team finally attacked with more players and exploited Tel Aviv's apathy.
Four minutes into the second half, Oshri Gita squandered a superb chance, but his miss was quickly forgotten.
In the 52nd minute, the Tel Aviv defense failed to clear the ball and Itzik Cohen blasted in the equalizer.
After settling for a slender lead, the Reds suddenly needed to score again and they attacked ferociously. In the 60th minute, Bibras Natcho's shot went just wide, with substitute Michael Zandberg going close three minutes later.
The Tel Aviv fans who traveled up North must have thought their team was seconds away from regaining the lead in the 68th minute when Shechter was brought down in the box. However, Enyeama was denied by his fellow goalkeeper Dudu Goresh and the score remained tied.
The visitors reached several more chances after that, but Goresh's goal would not be breached again and Acre held on for a famous draw.
Tel Aviv made matters even worse for itself after the final whistle, with defender Walid Badier being shown a red card after exchanging heated words with referee Haim Ya'akov.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>