Maccabi Haifa 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa moved to the top of the table on Saturday afternoon with a 3-1 win over Maccabi Petah Tikva, thanks to two second-half goals by substitute Thembinkosi Fanteni.
Maccabi Petah Tikva started the match brightly and should have gone ahead as early as the sixth minute when Omer Buchsenbaum hit the bar from close range after a Pablo Bastianini cross was brilliantly back-heeled into his path by Tal Ben-Haim.
From that point on, Haifa's free-flowing football dominated the first half with Yaniv Katan spraying the ball about majestically, and John Culma and Lior Rafaelov full of running from midfield.
The home side took a deserved lead after 26 minutes when a Gustavo Boccoli free kick was headed into his own net by Kobi Ganon under pressure from Alon Harazi.
Petah Tikva struck back four minutes into the second half. Lior Asulin latched onto substitute Dalibor Stevanovic's through-ball and finished with aplomb, low to keeper Amir Edri's right.
Haifa coach Elisha Levy responded immediately by bringing on Fanteni for Shlomi Arbeitman, as well as replacing Rafaelov with Eyal Golsa, and the coach's decision paid dividends after 58 minutes.
Katan played the ball to Biram Kiyal who turned at the edge of the box and flicked a sublime pass to Fanteni. The South African finished low under the onrushing Ohad Cohen.
On 87 minutes, Fanteni stylishly increased Haifa's lead. The substitute seemed to have run out of options after cutting inside from the left, but spotted Cohen off his line and found the net with a cheeky chip from the edge of the penalty area.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1,Betar Jerusalem 0
It just gets worse for Betar Jerusalem. The reigning champion fell seven points behind leader Maccabi Haifa on Saturday evening after a deserved defeat in the North.
After a frenetic start to the game, Kiryat Shmona took control and should already have been two up before finding the net.
Sixteen minutes in, Yuval Avidor found himself one-on-one with Betar keeper Tvrtko Kale after the Jerusalem defense failed to deal with a long ball over the top. However, the Ironi striker's control let him down.
Two minutes later, Avidor beat Betar defender Yoav Ziv down the right and his cross was fired over the bar by Omer Peretz with the goal at his mercy.
Ironi cut through the Betar defense once more on 23 minutes, but Eden Ben-Basat shot tamely at Kale after a brilliant run by Ran Kojok.
Betar had a half-chance after 32 minutes, when Toto Tamuz's shot was comfortably saved by Kiryat Shmona keeper Danny Amos after some neat interplay with Amit Ben-Shushan.
Ten minutes later, the away side came within inches of taking the lead when Aviram Bruchian's audacious effort from just inside the Kiryat Shmona half hit the top of the bar.
Ironi took the lead a minute before the interval, thanks to Avidor's perseverance.
The Kiryat Shmona forward beat Shimon Gershon to the ball down the left, broke into the area and cut the ball back to Ben-Basat, who smashed it low into the net.
Kiryat Shmona defended solidly in the second half and largely restricted Betar to long-range efforts.
Moshe Ohayon went close with a free kick on the hour and substitute Idan Vered hit a curling effort over the bar from just outside the area with 15 minutes to play.
Despite the pressure, Betar never managed to get its passing game going, owing to the tireless Abbas Suan in Ironi's midfield and to some great hold-up play by man-of-the-match Avidor.
Vered had a great chance to equalize in the last minute though, but he was denied by a last-ditch clearance from Yaniv Lavi after a goal-mouth scramble.
Hapoel Petah Tikva 1, Bnei Yehuda 0
The red-hot Shimon Abuhetzera scored the only goal of the game with just two minutes to play.
Avi Reikan fed the striker, whose shot was parried by Bnei Yehuda keeper Dele Aiyenugba.
The ball came back to Abuhetzera who passed to Emmanuel Banahene. The substitute's effort was also saved by the Bnei Yehuda keeper, but this time, Abuhetzera scored the rebound.
Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan 0,Bnei Sakhnin 0
Sakhnin started the match strongly with Nsumbu Mazuwa going close with a 30-meter effort after six minutes and Yehiel Tzagai missing the target with a scissor-kick soon after.
Hakoach keeper Robert Badjie had to be alert to keep out a Robertas Poskus effort on 19 minutes.
The second period was largely uneventful.
Sakhnin keeper Meir Cohen did well to save an effort by Hakoach substitute Carlos Ceballos at the start of the half, and after 66 minutes, Idan Weitzman's speculative effort from the half-way line was palmed clear by the Sakhnin keeper.
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