Maccabi Tel Aviv's Barak Itzhaki.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways in the Premier League on Saturday night, but not without some tense moments and help from the referee.
The yellow-and-blue entered Saturday’s showdown versus Hapoel Haifa after picking up just a single point from its previous two matches and trailed 1-0 at halftime in Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, with Haifa’s Zarko Korac making the most of Eitan Tibi’s uncharacteristic mistake in the 32nd minute.
However, Omri Ben-Harush equalized with a header in the 50th minute and Barak Itzhaki completed the comeback in the 76th minute after referee Eli Khakmon inexplicably awarded Maccabi a penalty.
Tal Ben-Haim wrapped up the three points with a neat chip in the 83rd minute before Khakmon fanned the flames further by ejecting Haifa coach Shlomi Dora and refusing to shake his hand at the final whistle, while also sending off Ahed Azam with a second yellow card (85) after an exchange of words with the defender.
“Haifa is a team that knows how to get points but we were the better team today,” said Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Paulo Sousa after his side opened a three-point lead at the top of the standings, at least until Hapoel Beersheba hosts Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on Monday.
“The players pushed hard to get a result they deserved.”
Beitar Jerusalem fans called for the head of coach Eli Cohen after the team dropped to a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Teddy Stadium on Saturday night.
Beitar was completely outplayed by Kiryat Shmona on the way to a second straight defeat, with the northerners opening a 3-0 lead in the first half.
A Tamir Kahlon brace (17, 43) and an Eli Dasa own-goal (28) gave Kiryat Shmona an unassailable lead, with Sintiyahu Salalik (64) scoring a consolation goal for Beitar before Mindaugas Panka (76) put the icing on the cake for the visitors.
Hapoel Ra’anana continued its superb start to the season on Saturday, moving up to third place with a convincing 3-0 victory over Ashdod SC in Netanya.
Ra’anana, which has lost just once in its first 10 matches, recorded its fourth straight clean sheet and won thanks to goals from Eudis (45), Mamadou Toure (55) and Anthony Nwakaeme (84), with Ashdod’s Gadi Kinde being sent off in the 73rd minute.
Bnei Sakhnin climbed up to fourth place with a 3-1 win at Maccabi Petah Tikva, a defeat which could cost coach Moshe Sinai his job.
Mohamed Kalibat (21) gave the visitors the lead before Guy Melamed (63) equalized. However, a Dor Alu own-goal (73) and Dedi Ben-Dayan strike (92) secured Sakhnin its first victory in four matches.
Like Petah Tikva, Bnei Yehuda has also got just one win from its first 10 games following Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Hapoel Acre.
Nenad Marinkovic (30), Mirko Oremus (37) and Juliano Spadacio (45) scored for Acre, with Amir Agajev (84) and Gil Itzhak (89) finding the back of the net for Bnei Yehuda, which has gone winless in its past nine matches, losing seven of them.
On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium in a showdown between two powerhouses looking to kick-start their seasons.