Mac Haifa 298.88.
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Maccabi Haifa is in a freefall. After suffering a surprising loss to Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan last weekend, Haifa was stunned 4-0 by Maccabi Herzliya at Kiryat Eliezer on Saturday.
Freddy David's club put a big dent in the reigning Premier League champions' hopes of getting back into this season's title race.
Maccabi Haifa fell eight points behind Betar Jerusalem, which recorded a 2-0 victory over Ashdod SC at Teddy Stadium. Ashdod had a chance going into Matchday 18 of unseating Betar at the top of the standings, but instead allowed the Jerusalem club to extend its lead to five points, pending Sunday night's Tel Aviv derby.
Hapoel Tel Aviv is tied with Ashdod on 30 points, while Maccabi Tel Aviv (28 points) can jump into second place on its own with a victory.
Maccabi Haifa owned a perfect Premier League record against Herzliya at Kiryat Eliezer prior to Saturday's match, but was unable to avoid embarrassment. Herzliya struck four times in the first 34 minutes, which sealed the result and caused the home fans to leave the game early.
"It's our first win at Kiryat Eliezer," David said. "I have to admit that I have never seen such a convincing performance before. But we did come here to play attacking soccer and I'm very happy that the gamble paid off."
"The crowd's anger is entirely justified," Haifa coach Roni Levy noted. "We have no excuses. The red card [against Dekel Keinan in the 25th minute] was fatal, as it left us no chance of making a comeback in the second half. But we'll have to get our act together and start producing better results."
At the other end of the standings, the relegation battle is heating up. Hapoel Petah Tikva snapped a 10-game winless streak with a tight 2-1 win over Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan, Bnei Yehuda beat Eli Ohana's Hapoel Kfar Saba 2-1 in a tough away game and Maccabi Netanya shut out Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-0.
Maccabi Haifa 0, Maccabi Herzliya 4
Levy decided to shake up his starting lineup ahead of the game, benching Roberto Colautti in favor of Shlomi Arbitman. The hosts had no time to adjust, as Herzilya struck twice in an 11-minute span.
Mahran Radi, who also scored in last week's win over Betar Jerusalem, stunned Haifa in the second minute. The flamboyant forward took the ball in his stride, let fly from the edge of the box and the ball landed in the back of the net.
The greens pushed ahead looking for an equalizer but instead were stung by Herzliya. Yannick Kamanan, who played for Tottenham in the 1999/2000 season, dribbled past Haifa's defense and provided a cool finish to make it 2-0 in the 13th minute.
With growing unrest among Haifa's supporters in the stands, Keinan received his marching orders in the 25th minute after collecting his second yellow card.
Herzliya kept pushing forward and produced more goals to add to Haifa's misery.
Shlomi Toledo stunned Haifa just two minutes after the sending off with a clinical close range finish and Omer Buksenboim capped the scoring in the 34th minute.
Betar Jerusalem 2, Ashdod SC 0
Toto Tamuz (24, 38) scored both of Betar's goals, with Michael Zandberg setting up the first.
Maccabi Netanya 2, Maccabi Petah Tikva 0
Netanya scored in the seventh minute when Dela Yampulski took advantage of a mixup in Petah Tikva's defense and scored from close range.
Okocha put the game beyond the visitors' reach with an easy, 90th-minute goal.
Hapoel Kfar Saba 1, Bnei Yehuda 2
Eli Biton put Bnei Yehuda ahead in the sixth minute and Lior Asulin doubled the visitors' lead in the 17th.
Kfar Saba pulled one back in the 63rd minute with a Douglas De Silva goal but could not complete a comeback.
Hapoel Petah Tikva 2, Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 1
Following a lackluster and goalless first half, Petah Tikva took the lead in the first minute of the second thanks to a Said Makasi strike.
Shlomi Edri leveled the score 10 minutes later but Yaniv Luzon's 79th-minute strike gave the hosts the crucial win.