maccabi tel aviv soccer spungin 248.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ahead of this week's Champions League match at Juventus, Maccabi Haifa extended its lead at the top of the domestic league to six points on Saturday, maintaining its perfect start to the local season with a 3-1 win at Hapoel Beersheba thanks to a brace by Georgian striker Vladimir Dvalishvili.
Meanwhile, despite taking the lead on an Eran Levy goal, Maccabi's local and top-of-the-table rival Hapoel Haifa went down 2-1 at home to Hapoel Petah Tikva, for whom Elnatan Salami and Udi Hanoun found the net.
Elsewhere, despite having a whopping 20 chances on goal to Ashdod's five, Hapoel Tel Aviv was still without a home win Saturday night after an entertaining 2-2 draw at Bloomfield Stadium, while Maccabi Tel Aviv put its poor recent form behind it with a 3-0 win at Hapoel Ra'anana, thanks to goals by Ivica Iliev, Yossi Shivhon and Shiran Yeini.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya got its first win of the season, sweeping aside Maccabi Petah Tikva 3-0, thanks to two Shalev Menashe goals and an Ahmad Saba'a strike, while a Yaniv Luzon brace helped Maccabi Ahi Nazareth move up to seventh with a 3-2 win at Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Hapoel Tel Aviv 2, Ashdod SC 2
Hapoel began brightly at Bloomfield Stadium and was close to taking the lead in the opening minutes, but Itai Shechter hit the outside of the post after Samuel Yeboah's effort was saved by Ashdod's Croatian 'keeper Dragan Stojkic.
However, the hosts fell behind a goal against the run of play on 17 minutes, owing to some careless goalkeeping by Vincent Enyeama.
The usually reliable Nigerian stopper fumbled Moshe Ohayon's cross, the ball fell to Dimitar Makriev and the Bulgarian's weak shot bobbled into the net.
The unmarked Yeboah then wasted a glorious chance to level, sending a first-time header over after playing a one-two with Gili Vermut, but the deserved equalizer finally came on the stroke of half-time. Avihai Yadin's shot deflected to Nemanja Vucicevic, and the skillful Serb stepped inside Ori Uzan and slammed the ball in for his second league goal of the season.
The second period began almost identically to the first. Hapoel dominated possession, with Yeboah and Shechter hitting the woodwork, but just when it appeared a Hapoel goal was imminent, Eli Gutman's men were dealt a sucker-punch on the break.
Idan Sade latched on to a long clearance and squared the ball to Makriev, who fired it into the corner.
Maharan Lala shot wide from Vucicevic's reverse pass as Hapoel pressed for a second equalizer, and the hosts' perseverance was rewarded in the 76th minute when Shechter was pulled back by Yisrael Rosh for a penalty. Enyeama, making up for his first-half blunder, duly dispatched the spot-kick.
Gutman said the game was one of the "strangest," due to his side's failure to win despite their dominance, but added: "From the third minute of the second half, when Shechter hit the bar, I just knew it would be that sort of game."
Ashdod coach Yossi Mizrahi conceded that Hapoel was the better side and that his team defended too deep, but said he was "disappointed" to have let in a goal so close to the end, adding: "In my opinion, it was never a penalty."
Hapoel Beersheba 1, Maccabi Haifa 3
The match between the league's best attack and worst defense ended predictably, although Beersheba did manage to give the reigning champion a run for its money, particularly in the first half.
The visitors got off to the best possible start after 10 minutes. Peter Masilela swapped passes with Lior Rafaelov, burst to the by-line, and Dvalishvili had the easy task off knocking in the South African's low cross.
But the lead was to be short-lived thanks to a glorious goal by the hosts.
Maor Melikson swept a great ball to Ohad Kadousi who, with one deft touch, controlled the ball and nutmegged Jorge Teixeira, before chipping it nonchalantly over Nir Davidovich.
The unstoppable Shlomi Arbeitman, finally in Elisha Levy's starting lineup, headed in a Yaniv Katan comer on 27 minutes to notch his sixth goal of the campaign and regain Haifa's lead.
Haifa should have extended its advantage early in the second half but failed to capitalize on its possession, and after Biram Kiyal and Gustavo Boccoli went close, the visitors were almost punished as Kadousi hit the post at the other end.
The champion eventually did get the third marker 20 minutes from time, when Dvalishvili buried a Katan corner with a thumping header.