Maccabi TA takes over top spot in local league

Yellow-and-blue first to four wins with 2-1 conquest of Hap PT; Hapoel Tel Aviv tops Netanya.

Shechter 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Shechter 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
After more than a month, Hapoel Tel Aviv finally returned to winning ways on Saturday night, defeating Maccabi Netanya 3-1.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv climbed to the top of the Premier League standings, at least for 24 hours, claiming its fourth straight league victory with a 2-1 triumph over Hapoel Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium thanks to Haris Medunjanin’s goal three minutes into stoppage time.
At Netanya, Hapoel once more failed to recapture last season’s form, but goals from Toto Tamuz (11), substitute Ben Sahar (70) and Itai Shechter (82) gave the reigning champion a convincing victory, its first in all competitions since its 5-1 win over Hapoel Ashkelon on August 28.
After picking up just four points from its first four league matches, and being humbled in its first two Champions League group encounters, including a 3- 1 home defeat to Olympique Lyon last Wednesday, Hapoel was desperate for all three points on Saturday.
Netanya made Tel Aviv sweat for the first 70 minutes, but couldn’t find the back of the net until it was already three goals down and Hapoel breathed a huge sigh of relief at the final whistle.
“We played well against Lyon, but we paid the price for our mistakes” coach Eli Gutman said. “In the 4-2 loss against Kiryat Shmona last week we didn’t show enough fighting spirit, but we battled for the points today and that got us the victory.”
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa dropped to its second straight defeat after beginning the season with three consecutive wins, losing 2-1 to Hapoel Acre. Arafat Djako (5, 53) scored a brace for Acre, with Alon Bozoragi scoring a consolation goal for Haifa in the 76th minute.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Beersheba won for the first time since the first weekend of the season on Saturday, beating Bnei Sakhnin 1-0 through Bernardo Vasconcelos’ 78th minute strike.
Ashdod SC rescued a 2-2 draw at Maccabi Petah Tikva thanks to Nevo Mizrahi’s stoppage time goal, with Tal Ben-Haim (26, 40) twice giving the hosts the lead and Moshe Ohayon (34) equalizing initially.
In Saturday’s only goalless match, Hapoel Ashkelon and Bnei Yehuda went home with a point each after a 0-0 draw.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Betar Jerusalem at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Sunday, with Hapoel Ramat Gan visiting Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday.
In Netanya, Tamuz got the visitors off to the start they needed with a great finish in the 11th minute.
Four minutes later, Netanya’s Hen Ezra was unlucky not to tie the score, with his excellent shot from outside the box smashing against the crossbar.
The hosts had several other opportunities to equalize, with Maor Asor shooting wide from three meters out in the 58th minute, moments after Netanya was denied a penalty by the referee.
Reuven Atar’s men paid the price for their misses after substitute Sahar scored with his first touch of the night thanks to Gili Vermut’s superb build-up play.
Vermut also provided the assist for Shechter’s goal eight minutes from the end of the match and Kobi Dajani’s penalty in the 88th minute was too little, too late for a naïve Netanya team.
At Bloomfield, Maccabi got off to a slow start, possibly affected by the fact that the stadium was empty of fans due to a punishment handed down to the club for its supporters’ unruliness.
Petah Tikva created the better chances and took a deserved lead in the 70th minute, with Dudu Biton beating goalkeeper Liran Strauber with a cool finish.
As the match drew to a close, Tel Aviv had no choice but to send more players forward and coach Yossi Mizrahi’s risk paid off seven minutes from time.
Yuval Avidor did all the hard work and laid the ball off for Eliran Atar, who gave ’keeper Snir Dori no chance with his shot.
Maccabi continued to push forward in search of the winner and got it three minutes into stoppage time courtesy of Medunjanin’s great effort from the edge of the area, his eighth goal in all competitions this season.
“We didn’t play well, but we need to know how to win these kinds of matches as well,” manager Avi Nimni said.