Kiryat Shmona battles back to winning ways

Abed goal saves K8 and opens five-point gap, with Mac TA and Beersheba not in action until Sunday and Monday.

Maccabi Haifa’s Hen Ezra  (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Haifa’s Hen Ezra
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Despite a far from impressive performance, Ironi Kiryat Shmona extended its unbeaten start to the season to 14 matches and maintained its hold on first place in the Premier League standings on Saturday night, claiming a 1-0 victory over Ashdod SC.
Ahmed Abed headed in the winner for the hosts in the 44th minute to open a five-point gap at the top, with title rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba not in action until Sunday and Monday, respectively.
Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva in Netanya, while Beersheba visits Beitar Jerusalem.
“The only thing we can take from this match is the points,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar. “We didn’t play well and scored with our only chance in the first half. We were very lucky in the second half, but in some matches you just have to make sure you take all three points.”
A 90th-minute goal by Milan Bojovic gave Bnei Sakhnin a 1-1 draw against Maccabi Haifa at Doha Stadium on Saturday.
Haifa took the lead through Edin Cocalic in the 71st minute and should have clinched the victory 7 minutes from time, only for captain Yossi Benayoun to send a wayward pass instead of finding the back of the net with only goalkeeper Ran Kadosh to beat.
The Greens, who were targeting their fourth win from their past five matches, were made to pay for the squandered opportunity when Bojovic equalized from close range, infuriating Haifa coach Aleksandar Stanojevic.
“We had two situations to finish the match and they didn’t have one chance to score in the entire match,” he said. “The players most show their character on the pitch. If you want to fight for the title you can’t allow such a goal. We had this game won.”
After four consecutive defeats, Hapoel Tel Aviv finally returned to winning ways on Saturday night, beating Maccabi Netanya 2-0 on the road.
Hapoel found itself just three points above the relegation zone entering Saturday’s action, but it all but secured the victory over Netanya in the first 20 minutes.
Israel Zaguri (13) and Shlomi Azulay (19) gave Asi Domb’s side a comfortable cushion it easily maintained until the final whistle.
“I’ve been through some tough weeks,” said Domb. “It isn’t easy when everyone is cursing you. We were better than Netanya and could have won by an even bigger margin.”
Despite having to play with 10 men from the ninth minute, Hapoel Haifa eked out a crucial 1-0 win over Hapoel Acre at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Haifa owner Yoav Katz gave coach Reuven Atar until Saturday to get the team back on track and Gal Cohen’s 28th-minute winner may very well have saved his coach’s job after Kobi Dajani was sent off in the ninth minute.
Haifa remained in the relegation zone, but just a single point separates Atar’s team in 13th place and Bnei Sakhnin in ninth.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Petah Tikva and Hapoel Ra’anana drew 0-0. Both teams ended the match with 10 men, with Petah Tikva’s Hasan Abu Zaid and Ra’anana’s Emmanuel Mbola being sent off in the 35th minute.