(photo credit: Associated Press)
Despite all the criticism it has faced, Maccabi Haifa climbed to the top of the Premier League standings on Sunday night, defeating Hapoel Petah Tikva 1-0 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Haifa’s performances since the start of the season have been ridiculed time and again, but despite struggling to recapture the form of the past two campaigns, Elisha Levy’s team keeps finding ways to grind out results.
Haifa was once more far from impressive on Sunday, but Vladimir Dvalishvili’s 65th-minute winner gave the visitors their fifth win of the season, taking the Greens into first position for at least 24 hours, one point ahead of Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
A victory for Maccabi Tel Aviv at Hapoel Haifa on Monday night will move it tied on 18 points with Levy’s men, but will see it go first on goal difference.
“It may be a small 1-0 victory, but this was an important win,” Levy
said. “We were patient, but not fast enough. We improved in the second
half and also scored a nice goal. The most important thing is that we
are collecting points at a decent pace and are improving our play with
Haifa got the match off to a quick start, hitting the woodwork twice
within the first five minutes. Lior Rafaelov hit the post with his shot
from the edge of the area in the fourth minute, with Shlomi Azulai
smashing his effort against the crossbar a minute later.
Petah Tikva also had its chances, but it would be Haifa which would
score the only goal of the match. After a swift run down the left flank,
Azulai squared the ball into the box and Dvalishvili beat his defender
to tuck in the winner.