Maccabi Haifa defeated battling Bnei Yehuda 1-0 at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday night, to maintain their charge towards a third successive Premier League title.
Haifa made it nine wins out of nine and is now the only team in Europe to have a 100 percent record.
In a match that lived up to its high expectations, Bnei Yehuda was on par with Maccabi for most of the match and at times was even the better of the two sides.
â€œWe leave with the compliments, but unfortunately compliments donâ€™t give you any points in the table,â€ Bnei Yehuda coach Nitzan Shirazi said after the match.
Bnei Yehuda may have ended on the losing side, but the team showed once more that they fully deserve second spot in the league.
Haifa is now eight points clear at the top of the table and a third straight championship is looking like a virtual certainty.
Bnei Yehuda was the better of the two in teams in the first half, but wasteful finishing in front of goal cost them dearly.
Striker Moshe Biton was the main culprit, missing three golden opportunities to put Bnei Yehuda ahead.
Eleven minutes into the match Biton did well to free himself inside the Haifa box, but his right footed shot ballooned over the goal.
Haifa was jolted by the close call and almost scored three minutes later.
Forward Yaniv Katan hit a lethal shot which was only parried as far as Striker Shlomi Arbitman, who tapped the ball in, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.
Three minutes later, Biton had two chances in twenty seconds to give Bnei Yehuda the lead. First rattling the crossbar with a shot from five meters out and then being denied by Haifa keeper Nir Davidovich from three meters out.
A minute later Bnei Yehuda was deprived a penalty kick when the referee failed to spot Biton being brought down by Davidovich.
Three minutes from the interval Haifa broke the deadlock.
Midfielder Idan Tal crossed the ball into the area and after a slight nudge by Arbitman Michael Zandberg completed the simple task of prodding the ball home from three meters out.
Bnei Yehuda began the second half eager to put the disappointment of the first half behind them, but seemed unable to brake down the Maccabi defense.
Haifa was the closer to a second goal and had two chances in two minutes to double their lead. In the 71st minute Tal missed a free shot from twenty meters out and two minutes later, Gustavo Bokoli hit a right footed volley into the keeper â€¢Ë™s arms.
Two minutes later, Bnei Yehuda had its best chance to salvage something from the match.
Playmaker Ben Luz found himself free four meters from the Haifa goal, but his shot was incredibly turned over the post by Davidovich.
Four minutes from time Tal hit the crossbar with a shot from 25 meters out Bnei Yehuda continued to search for an equalizer, but to no avail.
Maccabi held on in defense and secured the victory.
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