Ashdod edges Mac TA, moves back into 2nd

Mizrahi’s men continue red-hot run, trail Kiryat Shmona by just four points atop weird table.

Kiryat Shmona 311 (photo credit: (Asaf Kliger))
Kiryat Shmona 311
(photo credit: (Asaf Kliger))
Ashdod SC proved once more its surprising start to the season is no coincidence on Sunday night, recording an impressive 2-1 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv to return to second place in the Premier League standings, four points back of leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Rodgers Kola scored the winning goal in the 56th minute, giving Yossi Mizrahi’s men their sixth win in the past seven matches and eighth victory in nine home games this season.
Like Kiryat Shmona, no one dreamed Ashdod could come close to challenging for the championship in 2011/12, but regardless of their results in Wednesday’s league action, the two will enter next Monday’s showdown with real hopes of going all the way.
Ashdod took the lead in the 28th minute with a move that illustrated why it has exceeded all expectations this season.
Nir Biton found Adir Tubul on the left flank and the latter’s cross was perfectly timed for David Revivo to slot in the opener.
The hosts piled the pressure on Tel Aviv after going in front and should have led by at least two goals at halftime.
However, Maccabi goalkeeper Barak Levy kept his team in the match with saves from Biton and Idan Shriki and the yellow-and-blue equalized in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time.
Moussa Konate was brought down in the box by Ashdod ‘keeper Ofir Marziano and Eliran Atar made no mistake from the penalty spot.
But Ashdod would not be denied, with Kola scoring the winner 11 minutes into the second half.
Maccabi’s defense could not handle Revivo’s corner and Kola was at the right place at the right time to smash in his fifth league goal of the season and give Ashdod a significant win.
Also Sunday, Betar Jerusalem finally found the back of the net after four matches without a goal, but it was still left frustrated after only managing a 1-1 draw at Hapoel Acre.
Betar dominated the proceedings for much of the encounter, but careless misses by Amit Ben-Shushan in the 32nd minute and Eden Nachmani eight minutes later meant the teams entered the halftime break still deadlocked at 0-0.
Jerusalem fans began to fear the worst after their team was made to pay for its misses when Nicolas Falczuk scored with a superb strike from 20 meters out in the 60th minute.
But after 516 minutes without a goal, Betar scored at last, with Dan Eibinder making the most of some poor Acre defending to tuck in the equalizer in the 76th.
“I’m happy we managed to score one goal, but I end this match with a strong sense of frustration,” said Betar coach Yuval Naim, whose team has won just once in its past 13 matches.
“We were better than Acre and deserved to win.”
Naim was at least pleased with the news that the Israel Football Association High Court decided to partially accept Betar’s appeal and allow it to host Hapoel Tel Aviv at National Stadium in Ramat Gan with fans on Wednesday.
Jerusalem was punished last week by the IFA disciplinary court to play its next two home matches in front of empty stands away from Teddy Stadium following its fans’ unruliness in the defeat to Bnei Yehuda.
However, the High Court elected to allow the yellow-and-black to host Hapoel in Ramat Gan with supporters, providing Betar with much needed revenue, while also allowing it to play its subsequent home game against Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium, but without any fans on hand.