The Israeli Premier League provided fans with plenty of goals and lots of drama over the weekend, with reigning champion Maccabi Haifa keeping its perfect record and Maccabi Tel Aviv returning to winning ways.
Upper Nazareth 1,Maccabi Netanya 3
In Matchday 5's opening fixture Friday afternoon, Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya beat Upper Nazareth. The yellows prevailed thanks to a Vladamir Kokol own goal (35) and lovely strikes by Alen Masudi (60) and Tal Banin (90). Itai Shekhter scored for the hosts in the 53rd minute.
Hapoel Kfar Saba 1,Maccabi Haifa 2
The reigning league champion went into the game as a clear favorite and managed to collect all three points, despite an unconvincing and weak performance.
Kfar Saba started defensively, but managed to create some dangerous counterattacks. Maccabi Haifa was woefully inaccurate in the first half and failed to create chances for its forwards.
The visitors raised their level of play in the second half and started pushing ahead with Brazilian Gustavo Boccoli and Xavier Dirceu. The hard work paid off soon.
Yaniv Katan headed in a Boccoli cross to make it 1-0 in the 60th minute.
Haifa was awarded a penalty just eight minutes later after a foul on Michael Zandberg in the box. Idan Tal sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and made it 2-0.
Kfar Saba's Cameroonian midfielder Joel Chami let fly from 20 meters to pull one back for the hosts in the 79th minute, which turned out to be no more than a consolation goal.
Ashdod SC 0,Maccabi Tel Aviv 1
Nir Klinger's Maccabi Tel Aviv earned a precious away win, keeping its title hopes alive.
Felix Obuka led the Ashdod attacks and also made some brilliant solo moves.
Veteran striker Shai Holtzman was off the mark in front of goal and failed to convert from his chances.
Nigerian Blessing Kaku was back in the starting lineup and showed signs of improvement. Jose Duarte, who made his league debut for Tel Aviv, entered the game in the second half and was hardly felt.
Ophir Haim scored the winner in the 75th minute, with a bullet header off Giovanni Rosso's cross, which came after an impressive run on the right flank.
Hapoel Tel Aviv 1, Maccabi Petah Tikva 1
The â€œLuzonsâ€ visited Bloomfield Stadium to take on Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv, where they last won twelve years ago.
Ghanaian international John Pantsil, who will be playing with his national team in the World Cup, put the reds ahead in the 13th minute with a clinical finish from 10 meters.
Hapoel Tel Aviv was the better team and visited Ohad Cohen's box frequently, but failed to score from promising opportunities. Maccabi Petah Tikva made it pay for its missed chances and drew level.
Stanislav Dovrovin lofted a deft cross in the 70th minute and Emile M'bamba, who was lurking unmarked in the penalty area, headed in to make it 1-1.
Petah Tikva held on and earned a valuable point.
Hapoel Petah Tikva 2, Bnei Yehuda 3
Bnei Yehuda made another stunning comeback, this time in a high-scoring affair at Hapoel Petah Tikva stadium.
Ravid Gazal made his debut for the hosts and was dominant in midfield. Petah Tikva went ahead in the 45th minute when Gazal's cross was intercepted Yossi Shivkhon, who elegantly glanced in the ball from close range.
Petah Tikva showed no signs of stopping in the second half. Gazal continued to dominate the midfield and set up Manor Hasan chipped in the ball over the goalkeeper and made it 2-0 in the 47th minute.
Just when it looked like Bnei Yehuda had no chance of coming back, Eli Biton stunned the hosts. The attacking midfielder, who arrived from Maccabi Tel Aviv last month, scored twice, in the 66th and the 70th minutes, to level the score.
Hapoel Petah Tikva sent all its players ahead and was stung again by Bnei Yehuda in the 88th minute. Goalkeeper Vincent Aneima found teenage striker Moshe Biton with a long goal kick, and set him up with just Rafi Cohen to beat.
Biton was on target and sealed the game.
The final fixture of Matchday 5 is Sunday night when Betar Jerusalem hosts Bnei Sakhnin.
Around 300 brave Sakhnin fans are expected to visit Teddy Stadium in the capital, which is expected to be full with fans in yellow-and-black.
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