Brawl mars Hap TA-Ashkelon stalemate

Ashkelon win in final weekend will relegate Hapoel after 27 years; Beitar crushes Sakhnin.

Hapoel Tel Aviv players at the end a draw against Hapoel Ashkelon, May 2017 (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Tel Aviv players at the end a draw against Hapoel Ashkelon, May 2017
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Tel Aviv enters the final weekend of the season no longer in control of its fate in the battle against relegation from the Premier League. Hapoel could only manage a 0-0 draw against Hapoel Ashkelon on Saturday in an ill-tempered match which boiled over after the final whistle.
A brawl between Hapoel players and staff and police broke out on the pitch in Petah Tikva following the goalless deadlock, with Hapoel striker Toto Tamuz being led off in handcuffs. Tamuz, who was released after several minutes, clashed with police and security guards after noticing that one of his relatives was being detained. Hapoel defender Orel Dgani, who was sitting in the stands after his season was cut short through injury, rushed to the scene and joined the melee, while Hapoel’s physiotherapist Rami Ingel suffered several blows to the face trying to break up the fracas.
The ugly scenes overshadowed the tense encounter, which left Hapoel one point back of Ashkelon and safety, and needing help next weekend if it is to avoid relegation after 27 years.
A home win for Ashkelon against Ironi Kiryat Shmona will send Hapoel Tel Aviv to the National League.
Apart from one season (1989/90), Hapoel has spent its entire history playing in the top flight.
Hapoel visits Hapoel Ra’anana in its final match and will survive should it win and Ashkelon fail to do so. Tel Aviv will also stay up should it register a draw, Ashkelon lose and Hapoel Kfar Saba not defeat Hapoel Haifa.
Kfar Saba remains in last place, but moved tied on points with Tel Aviv and kept its lingering hopes alive with a 4-1 win at Kiryat Shmona. Eli Elbaz (6, 25), Tal Ayala (45) and Mavis Tchibota (48) scored for Kfar Saba, with Shlomi Azulay (67) netting a meaningless consolation goal for the hosts.
Kfar Saba will maintain its Premier League status only if it wins and both Asheklon and Hapoel don’t pick up three points.
“I believe that we can still survive with a miracle next weekend,” said Tel Aviv coach Menahem Koretzki. “We will not lose hope until the final whistle. We will have to do our job and hope for the best.”
Bnei Yehuda officially secured its survival on Saturday, drawing 1-1 with Hapoel Haifa. Dor Malul gave Haifa the lead in the 49th minute, with Antonio Mrsic netting the equalizer from the penalty spot five minutes later.
Also in the relegation playoffs, Ashdod SC and Ra’anana drew 2-2.
In the championship playoffs, Beitar Jerusalem strengthened its hold on third place by equaling its season-best winning streak with a third straight victory, thrashing Bnei Sakhnin 5-1 in Acre. Beitar moved five points clear of Maccabi Petah Tikva, which visits champion Hapoel Beersheba on Monday. Itay Shechter (15, 57), Erik Sabo (45), David Keltjens (60) and Ya’akov Berihon (88) scored for Beitar, with Idan Shemesh (41) equalizing for Sakhnin.
Third place guarantees a berth in the Europa League qualifiers next season, while fourth will also be good enough should Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Bnei Yehuda in the State Cup final later this month.
The yellow-and-blue visits Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.