Fight for top flight survival yet to be decided

Hapoel Petah Tikva win over Ashdod keeps it tight at the bottom with Hap Haifa beating Ra’anana

Hapoel Petah Tikva striker Dor Hugi scored twice in his team’s 4-2 win over Ashdod SC last night in Premier League action. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Petah Tikva striker Dor Hugi scored twice in his team’s 4-2 win over Ashdod SC last night in Premier League action.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Petah Tikva remained alive in the battle against relegation for at least another 48 hours on Saturday, while Hapoel Haifa took a significant step towards survival after another dramatic day of action in the bottom half of the Premier League standings.
Any result but a win would have sent Petah Tikva to the National League with one match still to play, but the 4-2 victory at Ashdod SC maintained the team’s lingering hope of remaining in the top flight while handing Ashdod’s chances a huge blow.
Despite the victory, Petah Tikva could find itself demoted as soon as Monday should Hapoel Acre avoid defeat against Maccabi Netanya.
Petah Tikva remained in last place, two points behind Ashdod and three points back of Acre and safety, with Hapoel Haifa one point further in front.
Haifa will have its fate in its own hands entering the final weekend of action, after scoring twice in the final five minutes on Saturday to beat Hapoel Ra’anana 2-1.
Eli Babayev handed Ra’anana the lead after 77 minutes, but Hamdi Salihi leveled the score five minutes from time and netted the winner in the 90th minute.
Haifa hosts Netanya next Saturday and can guarantee itself another season in the Premier League with a win.
Ashdod finds itself in a far more dire situation after its winless streak reached 14 matches on Saturday.
Niv Zrihen (54, 79) twice brought Ashdod level after goals from Dor Hugi (50) and Michael Tukura (67). However, Petah Tikva would not be denied and can still dream of making a great escape thanks to goals from Hugi (82) and Liroy Zhairi (87).
Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin beat Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-0 thanks to Firas Mugrabi (57) and Mohammad Ghadir (90).
Elsewhere Saturday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona beat Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-0, climbing up to second place for at least 48 hours and ensuring Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to wait at least one more week before officially clinching a third straight championship.
Rodgers Kola (65) and Adrian Rochet (90) scored for Kiryat Shmona, which closed within five points of Maccabi Tel Aviv, which visits Hapoel Beersheba on Monday. Beersheba requires a win to move back up to second place, while Maccabi needs five points from its remaining four matches to wrap up another league title.
On Sunday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Haifa at Teddy Stadium in a crucial showdown in the battle for European qualification. With either Maccabi Tel Aviv or Hapoel Beersheba to lift the State Cup when they meet in the final later this month, a fourthplace finish will also be sufficient to book a place in next season’s Europa League qualifiers.
Haifa currently sits in fourth place by virtue of its superior goal difference over Beitar after the latter was deducted two points on Thursday for the racist chants directed by its fans at Ironi Kiryat Shmona forward Ahmed Abed.
Beitar will appeal the decision, but can take a huge step towards continental competition nevertheless with a victory on Sunday.