Maccabi Petah Tikva helped two Tel Aviv teams by soundly defeating first-place Betar Jerusalem 3-1 in a Premier League match on Sunday night.
Goals from Rubil Sarsur, Kobi Ganon and Uri Luzon sealed the win for the hosts before the hour mark. Chilean Milovan Mirosovic pulled one back for the visitors with 15 minutes to go, but it was too little, too late.
Betar went into Matchday 9 with a four-point lead over Maccabi and Hapoel Tel Aviv, who both won on Saturday, in the standings.
It was Betar's first league loss since Yossi Mizrahi took over from Ossie Ardiles as head coach of Arkadi Gaydamak's team. Ardiles was sacked following a 3-1 defeat at Maccabi Netanya.
"They [Petah Tikva] were more aggressive and had more passion, so well done to Maccabi Petah Tikva," said Mizrahi after the match. "We will solve this problem, don't worry."
"Before the game I said we were coming to win. I didn't ask for anything else," countered Petah Tikva coach Avi Luzon.
Former Cameroon international Patrick Suffo, who moved to Petah Tikva last season, was by far the standout player on the field, with his strength and agility testing the Betar defense throughout the game.
Despite the criticism aimed at Omri Afek following his performance at right back for the national team against Croatia last week, Mizrahi stuck with the ex-Racing Santander player. But he again put in a poor showing and was particularly at fault for the second Maccabi goal.
Michael Zandberg stood out for the visiting team but was unable to break through the Petah Tikva defense.
Two other Betar players who performed well for the national team, Toto Tamuz and Amit Ben-Shushan also started for the yellow-andblack but failed to make an impact on Sunday.
After a slow start, the match exploded into life after just four minutes when Petah Tikva took the lead. Omer Golan put Sarsur through, who chipped the ball over Betar's second string goalkeeper, Avi Ivgi, who was playing in place of the injured Itzik Kornfein.
Half an hour into the game, a trademark Ben-Shushan cross from the left wing landed on the head of Mirosovic, but the effort was easily saved by Petah Tikva 'keeper Ohad Cohen.
The hosts took a two-goal lead after 37 minutes when Afek made a terrible mistake in his own half to let through Andara Caldiera, who crossed to Kobi Ganon and the defender easily put the ball in the net.
Mizrahi decided to take strong action and made a double substitution at halftime, bringing in two more strikers, Christian Fabiani and Joano Pinto, for Gal Alberman and Tamuz.
But it was the team in blue which scored first in the second period. After 57 minutes, Betar center-back Arik Benado was sent off for a foul on Suffo. And from the resulting free kick, things went from bad to worse for Betar when Uri Luzon fired in an unstoppable shot that Ivgi was powerless against.
Mirosovic's goal after 75 minutes saved a little of the embarrassment, but Betar will need to improve if it is to win its first championship since 1998.