Mac Haifa 298.88.
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Maccabi Herzliya provided the result of the weekend, holding Maccabi Haifa to a 2-2 draw and leaving the defending champion without a win for its third straight league game.
Haifa, which travels to Scotland to play Glasgow Rangers in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, produced a lackluster performance and fell prey to two quick second half strikes by Reuven Atar's side. Maor Melikson managed to score a late equalizer, but the greens eventually squandered two valuable league points in the championship race with Betar Jerusalem, which was in fine form as it thrashed Ashdod 4-1.
In Saturday's other games, Hapoel Petah Tikva topped Hapoel Amidar Ramat Gan 3-0, Maccabi Netanya defeated Maccabi Petah Tikva 1-0 and Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Kfar Saba played to a 2-2 draw.
On Sunday, Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv will wrap up Matchday 7 in the season's first Tel Aviv derby. Yitzhak Shum's Hapoel hosts the clash, which will be played at a sold-out Bloomfield Stadium. Hapoel captain and midfield anchor Yossi Abuksis has recovered from his nagging leg injury and been declared fit to play.
At Herzliya, the defending champion, looking to rectify the traumatic 3-3 draw against Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan last week, came out with all guns blazing. Gustavo Bocolli put the greens ahead in the 30th minute, with a crisp longrange drive that took Shaul Smadja by surprise.
Just when it seemed like the game was going the visitor's way, Herzliya came ahead and punished the greens defense twice within the span of three minutes. Papi Kimoto scored the equalizer in the 48th minute, while Maharan Radi's tricky shot from the edge of the box gave Herzliya the lead.
Haifa got back on level terms in the 81st minute after Melikson exchanged passes with Roberto Colautti and sent the ball into the top corner of the Herzliya goal.
"I never settle for a point," Atar told reporters afterwards. "Haifa is definitely the superior team, but we should have won this game. Our team still needs two or three more signings to raise it to the next level, but we will try to prove ourselves in every game regardless of the developments."
Ashdod SC 1, Betar Jerusalem 4
Former Ashdod and current Betar coach Yossi Mizrahi opted for an attacking formation, which proved to be the right decision and gave the yellow-and-black the perfect start. Omri Afek (14'), Michael Zandberg (31') and Shimon Gershon (35') scored with ease to give the visitors a decisive 3-0 lead at halftime.
Idan Shriki pulled one back for Ashdod in the 52nd minute, but Afek scored his second goal of the game just seven minutes later to seal the fate of the game and solidified Betar's place at the top of the league table.
Maccabi Petah Tikva 0, Maccabi Netanya 1
Petah Tikva dominated the proceedings in the opening stages of the encounter, with Netanya not threatening the hosts' goal and concentrating on its defensive duties. But Dovev Gabai was off target on numerous occasions and Petah Tikva failed to take advantage of its chances in the first half.
Guy Luzon introduced Nigerian striker Patrick Suffo into the game, but it was Netanya's Itai Shekhter who silenced the home crowd and gave his team the lead. The teenage sensation performed a slick solo dribble and struck the ball with fury, which rendered goalkeeper Ohad Cohen helpless and gave his side the win.