hapoel petah tikva betar jerusalem 248 8.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv went top of the table on Saturday night after coming from behind to win 3-1 away at Ran Ben-Shimon's Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Eli Gutman's men will now be hoping second-placed Haifa slips up in its tough game in hand away at Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.
Meanwhile, Ironi appears destined for the drop, as a win for fellow strugglers Hakoach Ramat Gan at Maccabi Petah Tivka put Ben-Shimon's side five points adrift at the bottom of the league.
In other action Saturday, two days after receiving a one-point deduction for racist chants by its fans, Betar Jerusalem's hopes of a third straight title were dealt a death blow after a disappointing 0-0 draw away at Hapoel Petah Tikva left the champion seven points off the top with just 12 points still left to play for.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya put aside this week's announcement of coach Lothar Matthaus's imminent departure in a 1-0 win away at Maccabi Tel Aviv. And a rampant Bnei Yehuda consolidated its place in the top five with a convincing 3-0 victory at Ashdod.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1, Hap TA 3
Kiryat Shmona started brightly, taking a well-deserved lead on 17 minutes. Guy Tzarfati picked up the ball on the right of the penalty area, cut inside Avihai Yadin and, with the outside of his right foot, curled an audacious effort into the bottom corner.
Had Ironi held on until the interval it might have been a completely different story, but on the stroke of half-time the northerners were dealt a sucker-punch when Walid Badir brushed aside his marker and headed in a Bibras Natcho corner.
Two minutes into the second half, Kiryat Shmona's misery was compounded when Natcho's inswinging cross found Dimitar Telkiyski, who sent a diving header past Danny Amos to put Hapoel in front.
After Natcho and Samuel Yeboah had fluffed golden opportunities, both shooting tamely at Amos with only the goalkeeper to beat, Eran Zehavi finally wrapped up the win in injury time, racing clear after Paul Kessany's blunder and chipping the ball home.
Ben-Shimon remained upbeat, despite his team's precarious position.
"Our situation is bad, but our fate is by no means sealed," he said. "I certainly believe we can survive, and I'll keep believing it until the gap is unassailable."
Hapoel coach Eli Gutman bemoaned his team's lack of consistency, noting the stark contrast between the "disorganization" in the first half and the "creativity" of the second.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 0, Maccabi Netanya 1
Maccabi Tel Aviv's dreadful home run continued on Saturday afternoon, while Netanya kept its hopes of clinching a European spot via the league alive.
The only goal of the game came eight minutes before the break. Ravid Gazal found Itai Shechter at the edge of the box, and what the Netanya striker's shot lacked in power it made up for in accuracy, beating Tel Aviv 'keeper Dragoslav Jevric and nestling into the corner.
After the match, Matthaus denied media reports that he was already on his way to coach in Germany and said he intended to honor his shortened contract and remain at Netanya until the end of this campaign.
Nevertheless, the German World Cup winner wasn't ruling out coaching another Israeli club next season, saying that "all options are open."
Maccabi Petah Tikva 0, Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan 2
Hakoach gave its survival hopes a massive boost on Saturday afternoon with a crucial win away at off-form Maccabi Petah Tikva.
The visitors took the lead on 49 minutes when Barak Badash got on the end of Gal Levy's ball and beat Petah Tikva 'keeper Ohad Cohen from close range.
Hakoach then sat back until the very last minute of the game when substitute Amir Abu Arar latched onto a long clearance, went past Murad Megamadov and slotted the ball home.
Ashdod SC 0, Bnei Yehuda 3
Eliran Atar put the visitors in front in the fifth minute, firing an Assi Baldout cross into the corner.
And the gifted youngster doubled his tally on the half-hour after a magnificent, mazy run.
Bnei Yehuda sealed the victory on 61 minutes when Tamir Kahlon and Baldout combined to set up Pedro Galvan and the Argentine smashed the ball past Ashdod stopper Dragan Stojkic.