Ashdod’s disastrous season ends in demotion

The 1-0 defeat at Hapoel Tel Aviv sends coastal team to second division, Hapoel Haifa survives

 Picture of Ashdod SC owner Jacky Ben-Zaken and players  (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Picture of Ashdod SC owner Jacky Ben-Zaken and players
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After 18 years in the Premier League, Ashdod SC was relegated to the National League on Saturday night, losing 1-0 to Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
Ashdod didn’t have its fate in its own hands entering Saturday, with Hapoel Haifa knowing a win over Maccabi Netanya will secure its survival regardless of the result Ashdod records.
Haifa only managed a 0-0 draw against Netanya at Sammy Ofer Stadium, but Ashdod failed to win for a 15th consecutive match, a streak stretching back four months.
Ashdod fell behind in the 45th minute against the run of play, with Hapoel’s Shay Abutbul scoring from the penalty spot after Mickey Siroshtein was deemed to have handled the ball in the box, resulting in a controversial straight red card for the midfielder.
Despite playing with 10 men, the visitors had their chances, but Alexander Davidov missed from the spot in the 70th minute and Ashdod will have to get used to life in the second division.
“This hurts,” said Ashdod coach Nir Klinger. “I knew Haifa wouldn’t win and told the players that it is in their hands. A cruel refereeing decision and a crucial penalty miss cost us. This is a sad day, but this is life.”
Ashdod joined Hapoel Petah Tikva in the National League, with the latter at least ensuring it didn’t end the season in last place by beating Hapoel Ra’anana 4-2 on Saturday. Shoval Gozlan’s brace (45, 56) leveled the score for Ra’anana after Dor Hugi (11) and Liroy Zhairi (18) gave Petah Tikva a 2-0 lead. However, goals from Dor Jan (86) and Dor Kochav (90) ensured Petah Tikva ended the campaign on a winning note.
Also Saturday, Elior Syder’s third-minute winner gave Hapoel Acre a 1-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa moved three points clear of Beitar Jerusalem in the battle for fourth place and Europa League qualification on Saturday, thrashing Hapoel Beersheba 4-0.
Haifa had gone winless in its previous five matches, but hit the ground running at Sammy Ofer Stadium, with Hen Ezra scoring in the eighth and 17th minutes after going three months without a goal.
Yossi Benayoun made it 3-0 four minutes into the second half, but didn’t celebrate against his boyhood club, before Alon Turgeman put the icing on the cake in the 78th minute.
Beitar hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday and should know by then if its appeal against the two-point deduction it was handed for racist chants has been accepted.
Beersheba remained in third place, two points behind Ironi Kiryat Shmona, but is far more focused on Wednesday’s State Cup final against Maccabi Tel Aviv when it can claim its first title since 1997.
Despite the heavy defeat, Beersheba coach Elisha Levy was confident his team will play much better on Wednesday and insisted that the humbling loss had nothing to do with the club’s announcement on Thursday that he will be leaving at the end of the season.
“I don’t think there is any connection,” he said. “We are all professionals and I will do everything so that Beersheba will win the cup.”
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv can clinch a third consecutive championship with a win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Bloomfield Stadium.