Hapoel Tel Aviv 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv officially rejoined the Premier League title race by recording a 2-0 victory at Maccabi Netanya that, combined with archrival Maccabi Tel Aviv's 2-2 draw with Hapoel Petah Tikva, allowed Nir Levin's team to overtake its crosstown rival in the standings.
Hapoel Tel Aviv is now in second place with 42 points, Betar, which visits Ashdod SC Sunday night in the Matchday 23 finale, is ahead of Hapoel by just one point and Maccabi Tel Aviv has 40 points in third.
Netanya was unable to handle Hapoel Tel Aviv's quick tempo and Reuven Atar lost for the first time in this stint as head coach.
"A convincing win," said Levin. "I am pleased with the defensive effort. We contained [Netanya] and collected three valuable points. We have to keep up the hard work and put the pressure on Betar Jerusalem."
Both teams came out with defensive formations and opened the match with physical play.
Hapoel was missing captain Yossi Abuksis but nonetheless opened the scoring in the 37th minute. Itai Shechter lost possession in midfield, which enabled Tel Aviv to develop a quick counterattack. Yigal Antebi made a swift run down the left flank and crossed the ball into the Netanya box. Baruch Dego made the most of the opportunity and scored from an acute angle.
Netanya was awarded a penalty kick in the 53rd minute after Rami Doani seemingly handled the ball in the box, but referee Meir Levi reversed his decision after analyzing the incident with his linesman as many of the players got involved in pushing and shoving.
Netanya was left with 10 players in the 61st minute when Moussa Sanogo received his second yellow card following a hard tackle.
Ibazito Ogabuna scored the second for Hapoel following a quick raid crafted by forward Elyaniv Barda.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 2, Hapoel Petah Tikva 2
Petah Tikva played a superb tactical game in the opening stages of the match and was awarded a penalty in the 21st minute when Yaniv Luzon was fouled in the box. Veteran striker Moti Kakoon stepped up and converted the spot kick with ease.
The yellow-and-blue struck back in the 29th minute thanks to Yossi Shivhon but were unable to utilize their ball possession advantage to go ahead.
Avi Nimni and Giovanni Rosso failed to create the spark in midfield, rendering the team's attack ineffective.
Kakoon struck again in the second half, capping off a brilliant counterattack in the 61st minute.
Maccabi Tel Aviv substitute Erez Mesika leveled the score in the 77th minute after breaking Petah Tikva's offside trap and providing a close range finish.
Petah Tikva appealed for a penalty in stoppage time after Luzon was apparently brought down in the penalty area, but referee Alon Yefet was unconvinced. TV replays revealed Yefet's error, with Maccabi's defenders clearly fouling the Petah Tikva midfielder in front of the goal.
Maccabi Haifa 1, Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 2
Hakoah needed just 10 minutes to get on the scoresheet. Yossi Rozen lofted the ball from the right flank, as Roberto Colautti made his way to the box to help his defense. The Argentinian ended up scoring a miserable own goal, giving Ramat Gan the surprise lead.
Haifa started playing a more attacking game after the surprise goal and eventually struck in the 35th minute. Alon Harazi took a free kick and located unmarked teammate Alain Masudi, who headed in the ball from point-blank range.
Around 3,500 Haifa loyalists expected a more convincing performance from their team in the second half, but Ramat Gan had other plans. Substitute Shlomi Edri showed great vision when he set up Rozen, who let fly with his left foot and scored the winner in the 57th minute.
"It's hard to explain our league performances," Harazi said after the disappointing loss. "We play well in Europe and fail to duplicate the form in the league. Our fans have to be patient and give us their support. We'll do our best to climb up the standings."
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva fell behind in the 12th minute against Maccabi Herzliya, but managed to make an impressive comeback en route to a dramatic 4-2 win and Eli Ohana's Hapoel Kfar Saba managed only a 1-1 draw against visiting Bnei Yehuda.