Maccabi Haifa 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's 20-match unbeaten run, which spanned almost six months, was broken Sunday night when the club lost 1-0 to three-time reigning Premier League champion Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium.
Tel Aviv hadn't been defeated since its 2-1 loss to Maccabi Petah Tikva on October 14, but on Sunday, a single goal by Shlomi Arbeitman in the ninth minute was enough for Haifa to end the streak and severely dent Tel Aviv's championship aspirations.
Tel Aviv remains in second place, seven points behind Betar Jerusalem, and with only seven matches left in the 2006/07 season, the league leader needs five wins to guarantee its first championship in nine years.
Tel Aviv seized control of the match right from the kickoff, but despite its superior possession, struggled to create scoring chances.
Haifa was content on hitting Tel Aviv on the break and five minutes into the match, the visitors almost grabbed the lead. Roberto Colautti controlled a difficult long ball and hit a good volley that was saved by Tel Aviv 'keeper Tvrtko Kale.
Four minutes later, even the superb Croatian 'keeper could do nothing to deny Haifa the lead, with Colautti once more the instigator.
The Israeli international brought the ball into the box and with only Kale to beat, took an awkward shot. The ball hit the bar and bounced straight to the feet of a charging Arbeitman, who drilled the ball into the net and gave his club the lead.
Tel Aviv tightened its control of the match after falling behind, but opportunities to score were still hard to come by.
In the 13th minute, a good Tel Aviv move ended when midfielder Yossi Shivhon's left-footed shot sailed centimeters wide of Nir Davidovitch's left post.
Nine minutes later, Ori Shitrit almost equalized when his left-footed shot went just high after hitting a Haifa defender on its way to the goal.
Haifa's defensive tactics almost paid off once more a minute before halftime when Gustavo Boccoli could only hit his free header straight into the hands of Kale.
Tel Aviv continued to have the lion's share of possession at the start of the second half, but once again it was Haifa that came closer to scoring.
Eighteen minutes after the interval, Kale was beaten once again, but another piece of desperate defending by the Tel Aviv defense prevented Colautti from doubling the lead.
The match burst into life during the following five minutes, as both teams missed golden opportunities to score.
In the 66th minute, Milan Mardikovic wasted Giovanni Rosso's excellent cross and ballooned his free header from five meters.
Just a minute later, Colautti's shot was making its way into the bottom right corner of Tel Aviv's net, but Kale got his foot to the ball and the hosts were spared.
In the 74th minute, Mardikovic managed to find the target with his header, but Davidovitch's acrobatic save denied Tel Aviv an equalizer and its unbeaten streak came to an end.
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