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Hapoel Tel Aviv gave Betar Jerusalem a chance to increase its lead at the top of the Premier League standings by settling for a 1-1 draw with Hapoel Kfar Saba at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday.
"I'm not happy with the match officials," Kfar Saba coach Eli Ohana said after the dramatic draw. "But my lads did a good job, especially in the second half. We could have won, but our strikers didn't take their chances. I expect such performances in every game."
Kfar Saba opened with an attacking formation and pushed forward at the beginning of the match but it was the hosts who drew first blood in the 15th minute. Salim Toama did the damage with a sublime finish from the edge of the box, capping a brilliant solo dribble.
Eli Ohana's club turned the tide after halftime, with the breakthrough coming in the 47th minute. Eliran Danin, the new arrival from Betar Jerusalem, stunned the hosts with a free kick from 20 meters, which was enough to secure the valuable draw.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which beat Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 1-0, and Ashdod SC, 2-1 losers to Maccabi Petah Tikva, swapped places in the standings.
The Matchday 19 finale is Sunday night at Kiryat Eliezer as reigning champion Maccabi Haifa hosts current front-runner Betar Jerusalem. Brazilian Jose Ramalho is expected to make his debut for Betar, replacing the suspended Derek Boateng.
Hakoah Amidar R-G 0, Maccabi Tel Aviv 1
Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Avi Nimni started the match on the bench after he failed a fitness test prior to kickoff. The result was a defensive and uninspired first half by the visitors, who failed to create chances for their attackers, despite enjoying most of the ball possession.
Tel Aviv coach Eli Cohen inserted the injured Nimni in the second half in order to try and secure all three points.
The gamble paid off in the 74th minute, when Giovanni Rosso scored from close range after taking full advantage of mixup by the Ramat Gan defense.
Maccabi Petah Tikva 2, Ashdod SC 1
The "Luzons" scored in the seventh minute, when Patrick Suffo produced a classic finish from inside the box. Ashdod drew level nine minutes later when Shai Holtzman scored his ninth goal of the season from close range after losing his marker.
But Petah Tikva continued to apply the pressure on visiting Ashdod and the hosts took the lead for the good in the 30th minute. Left back Kobi Ganon made a deft run on the flank and headed in Petah Tikva's second.