HAPOEL TEL AVIV striker Toto Tamuz 390.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona can move 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League standings on Sunday night after Hapoel Tel Aviv could only manage a 0- 0 draw against Ashdod SC on Saturday.
Kiryat Shmona hosts reigning-champion Maccabi Haifa on Sunday in what looks to be a passing of the torch encounter, especially if the northerners can win for the 11th time in 13 matches to open a massive gap on the rest of the league.
Tel Aviv created little to nothing at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday, and when it did finally manage to threaten Ashdod’s goal, ‘keeper Ofir Marziano was on hand to repel the danger.
The most intriguing event of the night at Bloomfield arrived after the final whistle when Hapoel striker Toto Tamuz launched a scathing attack on under-fire owner Eli Tabib, claiming he felt “betrayed” after his lucrative transfer to AS Monaco was torpedoed last week.
The battle against relegation heated up even further on Saturday, with Betar Jerusalem suffering a humbling 3-0 home defeat to bitter-rival Bnei Sakhnin.
Betar seemed to be getting back on track after claiming three straight wins, but after being embarrassed at Hapoel Rishon Lezion last week, it suffered even more humiliation on Saturday.
Eran Levy, Haim Megrelashvili and Nigerian Harmony Ikande all made their debuts for Betar, but the hosts were completely outplayed at Teddy Stadium.
Ahmed Kasoum headed in the opener in the 37th minute after poor Betar marking and Sakhnin easily clinched the win after the break thanks to goals from Ohad Kadusi (71) and Oded Elkayam (80).
“No one expected such a poor performance,” Betar coach Yuval Naim said. “I can’t explain what happened today. This is a terrible result for us. We have regressed back to our bad period, but I think that one win can get us back on course.”
Betar is now just two points above the relegation zone, but matters could have been worse for the yellow-and-black, with Hapoel Haifa only managing a 2-2 home draw against rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva and Hapoel Beersheba losing 2-1 to Maccabi Netanya at Vasermil Stadium.
Haifa seemed to be comfortably ahead after Ali Khatib (4) and Golan Hermon (30) gave it a 2-0 cushion, but Armon Ben-Naim (56) and Guy Tzarfati (73 penalty) regained some pride for Petah Tikva and cost Haifa two precious points.
After a goalless first half in Beersheba, Nir Nahum (62) and Ahmed Saba (73) scored for Netanya, with Ido Eksbard’s stoppage-time goal of little consolation for the hosts.
Maccabi Petah Tikva moved six points clear of the relegation zone with its second straight win under Moshe Sinai’s guidance, beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-1.
Tal Ben-Haim gave Petah Tikva the lead in the 61st minute with a clever shot, only for Barak Itzhaki to head in an equalizer in the 79th.
However, just two minutes later, Ben- Haim squared the ball for Danny Preda for an easy winner against the apathetic yellow-and-blue.
Rishon Lezion remained within touching distance of safety on Saturday, drawing 2-2 with Hapoel Acre thanks to Lior Bartekovski’s 93rd-minute equalizer.
Two goals by Stefan Scepovic in the first six minutes of the match (3, 6) gave Acre a perfect start, only for Rif Mesika to bring Rishon back into the game in the 34th before Lior Bartekovski tied the match after Acre’s Sagiv Cohen was sent off one minute from time.
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehuda drew 1-1 with Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, with Bnei Yehuda’s Oz Raly (78) cancelling out Ben Malka’s opener (42).