Mac Haifa 298.88.
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Under increased scrutiny in the wake of suspected match-fixing and ties to illegal gambling, all five Premier League matches over the weekend ended in draws.
After Oshri Levy was apparently seen on videotape accepting money at a kiosk that allegedly takes illegal sports bets, three Hapoel Beersheba players were arrested on Friday under suspicion of accepting money to purposely throw their match against Hapoel Ra'anana in the National League, which was postponed.
Defending champion Maccabi Haifa failed to overcome a stubborn Ashdod SC, which forced a 1-1 draw and extended its four-game unbeaten streak.
"I am encouraged," Haifa coach Roni Levy said after the game. "Despite being down by one man and losing one of our key players, we came back in heroic fashion. Our players also had a few chances to clinch the win, but failed to take advantage. We have to work hard and make more of our chances."
Omer Golan's brace gave Maccabi Petah Tikva a 2-2 draw against Maccabi Herzliya. Hapoel Petah Tikva forced a 1-1 draw against Maccabi Netanya at "The Box," while Bnei Yehuda and Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan both failed to score in their game. Hapoel Kfar Saba and Maccabi Tel Aviv also earned a point each.
Matchday 13 will conclude Sunday night as Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts archrival Betar Jerusalem, in what may prove to be the reds' last chance to rejoin the championship race. Betar defender Shimon Gershon, who left Tel Aviv in favor of the yellow-and-black last summer, is expected to receive another hostile welcome at Bloomfield Stadium.
Jerusalem coach Yossi Mizrahi is not planning any changes in his starting lineup, with Argentinian striker Christian Fabiani expected to pair up with Toto Tamuz in attack. Omri Afek is lacking match fitness and has been ruled out. Yoav Ziv will fill in for the injured right winger.
Ashdod SC 1,Maccabi Haifa 1
Ashdod employed an offensive gameplan and came close to scoring on numerous occasions. Idan Shriki finally did the job in the dying seconds of the first half, thanks to veteran Shai Holtzman's fifth assist of the season.
Haifa's chances of making a comeback took a serious hit when dynamic midfielder Gustavo Boccoli received his marching orders in the 52nd minute. But the greens managed to equalize when Shlomi Arbitman converted from close range in the 70th minute.
"I can't say that I am happy," Ashdod coach Alon Hazan commented on the 1-1 score. "I expected my team to win the game after scoring the goal. We had a chance to double our lead, but this is a learning process and we will do better next time. I am planning to add another player in the upcoming transfer window."
Hapoel Kfar Saba 1, Maccabi Tel Aviv 1
In Kfar Saba's first match since releasing Oshri Levy, who had been the starting goalkeeper but is now the subject of an Israel Football Association investigation, the hosts played their trademark attacking style.
However, Tel Aviv drew first blood following a swift counterattack from the left flank. Croatian forward Giovanni Rosso was fouled in the box, which resulted in a penalty in favor of the visitors. Avi Nimni stepped up and blasted the ball into the goal to give the yellow-and-blue a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
But the greens kept coming ahead and finally got their chance to level the score when a penalty was awarded in the 52nd minute after Yuval Spungin handed the ball in the penalty area. Former Maccabi star Jose Duarte was on target and scored the equalizer.
Maccabi Petah Tikva 2, Maccabi Herzliya 2
Herzliya stunned the Petah Tikva fans with an early goal, when Shlomi Toledo headed in a Kfir Edri cross in the fourth minute. Omer Golan cancelled the visitors' advantage 12 minutes later with a clinical finish from close range.
The "Luzons" fell behind yet again in the 50th minute, when Toledo set up Papi Kimoto for an easy strike inside the box.
However, Herzliya could not hold on and fell prey to another Golan strike, who utilized a mixup in the box to knock in the equalizer in the 57th minute.
Maccabi Netanya 1, Hapoel Petah Tikva 1
The visitors from Petah Tikva took the surprise lead in the last minute of the first half after Maccabi Netanya failed to score despite dominating the proceedings. Maor Buzaglo did the damage in the box and set up Said Makasi, who provided the finish.
Netanya came out strong after the halftime break and evened the score in the 50th minute. Forward Itai Shechter made a brilliant solo move and dispatched a long-range shot, which tricked goalkeeper Barak Visoker and hit the back of the net.
Bnei Yehuda 0, Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 0
Bnei Yehuda coach Nitzan Shirazi suspended Reuven Oved before the match after the influential playmaker voiced his willingness to play for Betar Jerusalem last week.
The result was a lackluster and defensive game, which ended in a goalless draw.
Avi Tikva had a change to win the game in stoppage time after he received a clever pass from Yossi Rozen, but the veteran winger failed to beat Bnei Yehuda goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who was in position to block the careless shot.