Israel soccer 224.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Netanya closed to within a single point of first-placed Maccabi Haifa on Monday, registering a dreary 1-0 home victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Scoring chances were at a premium in Netanya, but the hosts made there's count, with Shalev Menashe netting the winner in the 20th minute.
Netanya, which had failed to win its previous four league matches, visits third-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv next week in a match which could well have major implications on the title race.
Monday's loss leaves Tel Aviv in serious trouble on the wrong end of the table, with the team now failing to claim a win in its last seven league encounters.
Next week, Avi Nimni's men go to rock-bottom Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan and desperately need the three points to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
Netanya took the lead with the match's first scoring opportunity after a poor clearance by Tel Aviv defender Yuval Shpungin.
The former Israel international headed the ball into the path of Netanya striker Thierry Tazemeta, who found Menashe in space and the midfielder coolly slotted the ball beyond Dragoslav Jevric for his fifth goal of the season.
The remainder of the first half passed without incident, as did most of the second.
Tel Aviv finally began to show some urgency in the final 20 minutes of the match and had its best chance of the encounter in the 80th minute.
The Netanya defense couldn't handle Maor Buzaglo's cross and 19-year-old substitute Matan Lutati, who was sent-off in the 89th minute, smashed the ball against the crossbar from 10 meters out.
"I hope that we can maintain this position until the closing stages of the season and then we can push for the championship," goal-scorer Menashe said.
"It was important not to concede tonight," Netanya 'keeper Liran Strauber said. "It's not that simple to defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv."