Hapoel Tel Aviv can leapfrog Maccabi Haifa into first place in the Premier League standings on Monday night after the Greens fell to a surprise 2-1 defeat to Maccabi Netanya at Kiryat Eliezer on Saturday.
Haifa entered the first weekend of the championship playoffs with a twopoint lead over the reigning champion following the halving of point totals.
However, after Haifa’s home loss on Saturday, Tel Aviv can reclaim top position should it beat Bnei Yehuda on Monday ahead of next Saturday’s showdown between the top two.
The Greens looked to be on their way to another victory on Saturday
after taking the lead through Lior Rafaelov’s goal in the 17th minute.
But a dreadful mistake by Haifa goalkeeper Nir Davidovich gifted Netanya
the equalizer seven minutes later, before Sergy Tretyak scored a
stunning winner in the 38th minute, handing Haifa just its third defeat
of the league season and its first to a team not named Hapoel Tel Aviv.
“We lost important points tonight,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “We
began the match well, but Netanya got back into the game with
Davidovich’s goal and we played poorly after that.
“We will now have to beat Hapoel next week. The fate of the title is still in our hands and we must defeat Hapoel.”
Netanya reached the first chance of the match in the 16th minute, with
Nir Nahum sending a weak effort from the center of the box straight at
Less than a minute later, Netanya paid for its wastefulness.
Idan Vered squared a clever ball for the in-form Rafaelov, who sent an unstoppable shot into the left corner.
However, a goalkeeping howler would present Netanya with the equalizer just seven minutes later.
Davidovich smashed his clearance straight at Ahmed Saba and the ball flew into the back of the net.
Seven minutes before the break, Netanya took a shocking lead.
Tretyak was given far too much time and space on the edge of the area and he fired an unstoppable shot from 20 meters out.
Levy introduced Yaniv Katan at the start of the second half, but despite
all its pressure, Haifa rarely threatened Carlos Arias’s goal.
Tomer Hemed wasted a good chance in the 58th minute before beating Arias
with his chip six minutes later, only for Leonard Krupnik to clear the
ball from the line.
Haifa reached one last opportunity two minutes into stoppage time, but
Andriy Pylyavskyi sent his header wide and the hosts suffered a very
Maccabi Tel Aviv took an important step towards clinching third position
and a place in the Europa League next season, ending a six-match
winless streak with a 3-1 victory over Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Bloomfield
Maccabi midfielder Guillermo Israilevich was gifted the opener in the
16th minute after Salah Hasarma made a mess of his clearance, but Kiryat
Shmona equalized in the 30th minute through a Shimon Abu Hazeira
penalty after Tel Aviv midfielder Gal Alberman handled the ball in the
However, the hosts regained the lead six minutes after the break thanks
to Eliran Atar. The Maccabi forward would go on to net one more goal a
minute from time to secure his team’s victory after five defeats in its
past six matches.
“We have been through a very difficult period and we are very pleased with this win,” Tel Aviv coach Moti Ivanir said.
“It is frustrating to hear fans cursing you and calling for your
resignation and sometimes at home you ask yourself ‘what do I need this
for?’ But I have a dream for this club and I hope I can realize it.”
Betar Jerusalem moved nine points clear of the bottom two on Saturday,
thrashing Hapoel Ramat Gan 5-1 for its fourth straight win at Teddy
Rock-bottom Ramat Gan, which hasn’t won in a record 27 matches, took a surprise lead after five minutes through Zion Zemah.
Betar equalized thanks to Aviram Bruchian’s free kick from 20 meters out
in the 32nd minute and Hen Azriel completed the comeback 30 minutes
later after an elegant team move.
Three minutes later, Jerusalem all but clinched the win.
Idan Tal scored from the penalty spot after Azriel was brought down in the box by Tal Hen, who was subsequently sent off.
Samuel Yeboah (78) and Shay Hadad (82) completed the rout for Betar,
which can effectively secure itself another season of Premier League
soccer with another home win against Hapoel Petah Tikva next week.
Ashdod SC also moved well clear of the relegation zone on Saturday, beating Hapoel Ashkelon 4-1.
Suad Filekovic gave Ashkelon the lead on the road in the 22nd minute,
but four goals in the second half gave coach Yossi Mizrahi a win in his
first league match since replacing John Gregory at the helm.
Idan Shriki (58), Dimitar Makriev (66, 78) and Moshe Ohayon (88) scored
for Ashdod, which won for just the second time in 13 matches.
Also in the relegation playoffs, a 77th minute goal by Rafi Dahan gave
Hapoel Petah Tikva a 1-1 draw with Bnei Sakhnin, which took the lead
through Ahmed Kasoum five minutes into the second half.
In the mid-table playoffs, Maccabi Petah Tikva beat Hapoel Acre 4-1,
with Omer Damari (26, 65), Tal Ben-Haim (61) and Murad Abu Anza (90)
scoring for the winners, while Sagiv Cohen (42) netted a consolation
goal for the visitors.
Hapoel Beersheba claimed its second straight win on Saturday, defeating
Hapoel Haifa 2-1 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium thanks to goals from Ibrahim
Bassit (46) and Siraj Naser (66), with Edan Ben-Basat (68) scoring for
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