Haifa's Yaniv Katan.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv can officially clinch its first Premier League championship since 2003 on Monday night after second- placed Maccabi Haifa suffered a 2- 1 loss to Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night.
Tel Aviv remained 10 points clear of Haifa, with the Greens having just four more matches to play in the season.
The yellow-and-blue will need to defeat Hapoel Ramat Hasharon at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Monday to secure just its second league title in 17 years.
Maccabi enters Monday’s encounter as a huge favorite, going undefeated over its past 12 matches, winning 10 of them.
Ramat Hasharon, on the other hand, has lost all five of its matches in the championship playoffs by a combined goal difference of 0-12.
After its dejecting semifinal State Cup exit at the hands of Ironi Kiryat Shmona last week, Haifa was hoping to return to winning ways against Bnei Yehuda.
The Greens had gone unbeaten in their 10 matches since losing 2-0 to Dror Kashtan’s men almost three months ago, but they came up short against Bnei Yehuda once more on Sunday.
Ness Zamir gave the hosts the lead with a superb solo effort in the 15th minute, firing past Haifa ‘keeper Bojan Saranov after it seemed he was about to lose his balance.
Haifa equalized in a controversial manner in the 30th minute, with Hen Ezra receiving the ball in a clear offside position but going on to round goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba and score after referee Eitan Shmuelevitch and his assistants failed to spot the infringement.
However, it took Bnei Yehuda just nine minutes to regain a deserved lead through Adam Hrepka following a mistake by Haifa midfielder Gustavo Boccoli and the hosts held on for a win that keeps them in the hunt for fourth place.
“We didn’t play exceptionally well, but we were very organized,” said Bnei Yehuda’s delighted coach Dror Kashtan.
“We really wanted to win after the defeat in the cup, but we didn’t display enough quality in our finish,” said Haifa coach Arik Benado, who lost for just the second time in his 23 league games at the helm.
Earlier Sunday, the Israel Football Association announced that the State Cup final between Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Ramat Gan will be moved from its traditional venue at National Stadium in Ramat Gan to the new stadium in Netanya.
The IFA decided to relocate the final, which will take place on Wednesday, May 8, to a smaller stadium as neither of the teams has a large fan base and both aren’t expected to attract more than a few thousand supporters to the match.
The IFA also announced on Sunday that the match between Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Ramat Gan, which was stopped in the 39th minute on Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch, will be replayed at Sakhnin’s Doha Stadium on Tuesday.