(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa opened a seven-point gap at the top of the Premier League
standings with its fourth straight victory on Saturday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv
and Betar Jerusalem continued their disappointing seasons with humbling
Haifa beat Hapoel Acre 2-0 to move within one victory of
ensuring it enters the championship playoffs in first place, with Bnei Yehuda
handing the yellow-and-blue a third consecutive defeat, winning 2-0 at
Bloomfield Stadium, and Betar falling 2-1 at struggling Hapoel
Haifa created little to nothing in the first 71 minutes of its
match in Acre, which hadn’t lost in its previous five contests.
the Greens proved once more on Saturday that even when their performance is far
from impressive, they have the character needed to eke out a win. Two goals in
four minutes from Tomer Hemed (72) and Shlomi Azulai (76) gave them all three
points yet again.
“Haifa has always had character,” said coach Elisha
Levy, who will hope Hapoel Tel Aviv drops points when it hosts Hapoel Petah
Tikva on Monday.
“We had some good minutes in the second half and beat a
good team on the road. We have great depth and heart and now we need to beat
Kiryat Shmona in our next match to secure first position ahead of the
After losing 4-0 to Kiryat Shmona and 3-0 to Maccabi Netanya,
Maccabi Tel Aviv was desperate for a victory on Saturday, but Bnei Yehuda had no
intention of allowing Moti Ivanir’s side to recover at its expense, claiming a
comfortable 2-0 win.
The hosts took the lead at Bloomfield through Pedro
Galvan’s goal in the 47th minute after Maccabi defender Savo Pavicevic tripped
and Pini Balili collected the ball before squaring it for the Argentinian
midfielder to tuck into an empty net.
Pavicevic was sent off in the 75th
minute for a second bookable offense and eight minutes later Bnei Yehuda wrapped
up the win after goalkeeper Liran Strauber made a mess of his clearance,
allowing Galvan to chip the ball into an empty goal.
“We still have one
more goal this season, which is to finish in third position,” said Ivanir, who
was handed a contract extension through the 2011/12 campaign despite the defeats
to Kiryat Shmona and Netanya.
“I’m a very strong person and I know what I
can do with this team next season.
We are going through a bad period and
playing poorly. But I believe that I can guide this club to success in the
future and bring some joy to the fans.”
Maccabi is now just a single
point ahead of Kiryat Shmona in the battle for third place and a Europa League
berth after Ran Ben-Shimon’s team beat Hapoel Beersheba 1-0 on Saturday thanks
to Wiyam Amashe’s 38th minute winner.
Betar looked to be on the rise in
recent weeks after winning two of three matches to open a double-digit gap from
the relegation zone. However, Roni Levy’s men have still got plenty of work to
do before they guarantee themselves another season of topflight soccer after
falling to a 2-1 defeat at Hapoel Ashkelon on Saturday.
Ashkelon had lost
eight consecutive games, conceding at least three goals in its last five
defeats, but it gave itself renewed hope of survival with its sixth win of the
Eric Gawu gave the hosts the lead in the seventh minute with a
header, but Jerusalem equalized just before halftime through a Hen Azriel
penalty (45), two minutes after Mahmoud Abbas missed a spot kick for
Gawu put Ashkelon back in front four minutes into the second
half and Azriel was sent off in stoppage time to cap a night to forget for
Ashdod SC claimed its first win in 10 matches on Saturday, beating
Hapoel Ramat Gan 2-1 thanks to Nir Biton’s 90th minute winner.
equalized for the visitors in the 72nd minute after Ramat Gan took the lead with
an Elin Topuzakov strike (55).
Also Saturday, an Omer Damari brace (45,
65) gave 10-man Maccabi Petah Tikva a 2-2 draw at Maccabi Netanya, which led
twice through Dele Yampolsky (16) and Firas Mugrabi (55).
hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday.