Reigning champion Maccabi Haifa can now stop worrying about Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Dror Kashtan's Reds, coming off an impressive 2-0 derby victory and hoping to challenge Haifa, went down 1-0 at "The Box" and is now 10 points behind the Greens, which also has one game in hand.
Maccabi Tel Aviv recovered from last week's derby loss and beat Hapoel Kfar Saba 2-1 and Hapoel Petah Tikwa thrashed Ashdod SC 3-1.
Betar Jerusalem plays Maccabi Haifa at the Kiryat Eliezer stadium tonight (8:50 p.m., Channel 10) in its first game since Dutch coach Ton Caanen anounced he was leaving the club. Betar will be aiming for a win, which will mean second place in the league table.
Teenage sensation Barak Yitzhaki won't play for the yellow-and-black because of an ankle injury and will be replaced by Aviram Bruchian.
Bnei Sakhnin hosts Maccabi Petah Tikwa tomorrow (5 p. m.) in a crucial bottom-of-the-table fixture. The "Luzons" will look to get back to its winning ways in order to avoid the danger zone.
Maccabi Netanya 1, Hapoel Tel Aviv 0
The visitors from Tel Aviv were without their captain Yossi Abuksis, and his absence was strongly felt. The Reds failed to create dangerous attacks and played a very inaccurate game, leaving very little to write home about.
Alen Masudi shined for Netanya and provided an array of clever passes and also made some impressive individual moves.
The hard work paid off in the 76th minute when Netanya was awarded a free kick. Veteran Tal Banin found Papi Kimoto in the penalty area, who took control and tapped the ball into the net, scoring the winner for the Yellows.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 2, Hapoel Kfar Saba 1
Eyal Berkovic was back in the opening lineup for Maccabi, with Giovanni Rosso starting on the bench. After a poor first half, the veteran midfielder proved his worth.
Berkovic received the ball on the edge of the box, dribbled past Shalev Menashe and curled the ball into the goal to give the hosts the lead in the 46th minute.
Kfar Saba answered with a quick goal of their own in the 55th minute. Avi Knafo made a great run on the right flank and his cross was met by Avi Avinu, who provided a clinical finish to make it 1-1.
But Maccabi scored again in the 85th minute. Berkovic found Avi Nimni who lofted a deft cross, which was headed in by youngster Roi Dayan.
Hapoel Petah Tikva 3, Ashdod SC 1
The home side were first to get on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute. Elnatan Salami took control of the ball in the box and squared the ball for Yossi Shivkhon, who was lurking unmarked in the area. Shivkhon cooly tapped in the ball to give the hosts a quick 1-0 lead.
But the visitors retaliated in the 43rd minute, when Idan Shriki scored off his own rebound to make it 1-1, after an outrageous mix up in the Petah Tikva defence.
Ashdod's sweeper Sammy Etchi was sent off in the 47th minute after committing a brutal foul on Shivkhon.
Petah Tikwa pressed ahead and finally took the lead in the 82nd minute.
Ravid Gazal sent a curling shot over the Ashdod defence, which took an awkward bounce and landed in the back of the net.
Substitute Toto Tamuz scored Petah Tikva's third and final goal with a fiercely struck shot from 20 meters.
Bnei Yehuda 1, Upper Nazareth 1
In Friday afternoon's fixture, Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda finished its sixth consecutive game without a win, with Upper Nazareth providing another solid performance.
Defender Eliran Elkayam scored a clever goal in the 43rd minute to give the visitors the surprise lead. But forward Asi Baldut netted the equalizer in the 54th minute to salvage a valuable point for the Oranges.
In the UEFA Cup on Thursday Maccabi Petah Tikva took on Espanyol on Spanish soil, hoping to bow out of European competition with at least a point, and almost succeeded in its mission.
The Israeli side closed down the Espanyol attack, but failed to create opportunities for Omer Golan and Stanislav Dovrovin.
However, despite a weak performance, the hosts prevailed when substitute Raul Tamudo set up Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino, who made no mistake and provided the winner in the 83rd minute.
Shai David was sent off in the 88th minute for the visitors, who finished their UEFA Cup group stage pointless and with a 1-9 goal difference.
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