Avi Nimni 224.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways and moved up to second place in the Premier League standings on Saturday as Eli Cohen's squad produced another solid performance and defeated Hapoel Petah Tikva 1-0 at Bloomfield Stadium.
Veteran Avi Nimni was at his best, scoring his 190th career league goal and helping his team against an inexperienced Petah Tikva squad. Eyal Lachman's team is now six points below the red line, and its days in the top flight seem numbered.
"I'm not happy with the scoreline, but we did create many chances in the second half," Cohen said. "We managed to collect all three points from the match, but we have to improve in front of goal in order to win the big games.
"There is still a lot of work to do."
Maccabi Netanya kept its unbeaten streak intact as Reuven Atar's squad eased over visiting Maccabi Herzliya 1-0. Ashdod SC trounced Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 3-0 with an impressive offensive outburst at home.
Betar Jerusalem takes on Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium in Sunday night's Matchday 22 finale. The league front-runner has not won in its last four home matches.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 1, Hapoel Petah Tikva 0
Cohen inserted Nimni into his starting 11 after the captain successfully completed his pregame warmup drills. The yellow-and-blue took 21 minutes to score, with Nimni doing the damage in a moment of sheer genius.
The hosts were awarded a free kick 30 meters from Rafi Cohen's goal. Petah Tikva anticipated a cross and didn't deploy a wall, which proved to be a mistake. Nimni stepped up coolly and unleashed a trademark drive which landed in the back of the net.
Maor Samia received his second yellow card in the 51st minute, denting Petah Tikva's chances of staging a comeback.
Tel Aviv had a number chances to add to the visitors' misery, but poor finishing by Moshe Biton and Giovanni Rosso left the scoreline unchanged.
Maccabi Netanya 1, Maccabi Herzliya 0
Netanya failed to play its trademark attacking game and was unable to dominate the midfield without the suspended Mazua Ensombo. Herzliya managed to keep a clean sheet for 44 minutes with its tight marking and physical defense, but eventually fell prey to a swift Netanya counterattack.
Moussa Sanogo received the ball in midfield and used his pace to spin past the Herzliya rearguard. The Ivory Coast forward dispatched a slick shot towards the far corner, which was fisted away by Scott Higgins. Amir Taga pounced on the rebound and gave the hosts the hard-earned lead.
The yellows came out strong after halftime and looked like they would increase their lead, but the team's attackers failed to convert from their chances.
Ashdod SC 3, Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 0
Ashdod took the lead in the second minute courtesy of a defensive blunder by the visitors. Ramat Gan gave away possession in midfield and was the victim of a swift raid by the hosts, capped by a clinical Yaniv Azran finish.
The coastal club had no problems dealing with the visitors' uninspired attacks and doubled its lead in the 78th minute when Idan Shriki scored from an acute angle.
Shai Holtzman completed the rout with a close-range strike in injury time.
Violence mars lower league match
Fights broke out on Saturday afternoon at the soccer stadium in Jisr e-Zarka in northern Israel between fans of the home team and fans of the rival Barata club, which play in the C League.
Police from Zichron Ya'acov were scrambled to the scene and began attempting to calm the crowd.
Two police officers were reported lightly injured, and at least two members of the crowd were arrested on suspicion of assault. According to Israel Radio, a Barata player was also arrested for allegedly throwing rocks.
Additional officers were called in to maintain order.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.