Ashdod SC challenges for top spot

Coastal club rides four-match win streak into Maccabi Haifa match.

ashdod 88 (photo credit: )
ashdod 88
(photo credit: )
Ashdod SC has a chance to go to the top of the Premier League standings for at least 24 hours on Saturday night when it hosts reigning champion Maccabi Haifa. Ashdod, which has won its last four matches, is tied on points with first-place Betar Jerusalem, which plays Sunday, and three points against a struggling Haifa squad will catapult the team into first place. The top of the standings is new territory for the small coastal side which has been happy to settle for a mid-table finish in recent seasons. However, eight wins in its first 12 matches have put the team among the very best of the Premier League and a positive result against Maccabi on Saturday will show that Ashdod has every intention of finishing the season with an historic achievement. Haifa will have no sympathy for its hosts' fairy-tale story, with the northern team desperate for points in its quest to close the gap with Betar. Maccabi won for only the second time in eight games last week and is looking to string together a good run of results that will take it back to the first place it's so accustomed to. Maccabi Tel Aviv, unbeaten in its last seven, visits Hapoel Kfar Saba, which has only won once in its last seven matches. Tel Aviv drew 0-0 in Jerusalem last week, but will need to get all three points in Kfar Saba if it's to keep pace with the clubs ahead of it. Kfar Saba may find itself in the center of a scandal over the coming days after Sport5 showed on Thursday night footage of Hapoel's former goalkeeper, Oshri Levy, apparently receiving money at a kiosk that allegedly takes illegal sports bets. Kfar Saba released the player on Wednesday without disclosing a reason, but the IFA ordered an investigation into the matter on Thursday. Maccabi Petah Tikva will look to return to winning ways on Saturday evening after its four-match winning streak came to an end last week when the side drew 0-0 with Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan. Petah Tikva hosts Maccabi Herzliya, which lost last week to Ashdod and is one of four teams battling against relegation. Bnei Yehuda hosts Ramat Gan in an encounter that could go a long way to deciding which side escapes relegation. Bnei Yehuda has lost four consecutive matches and a failure to beat Hakoah will likely doom the remainder of the team's season to a battle against relegation. Hakoah, which has only won once this season, continues to collect points one at a time, drawing five times so far this season and will be happy to settle for a draw on Saturday. Maccabi Netanya faces Hapoel Petah Tikva and will have a perfect chance to close the gap with the top half of the standings. Netanya has failed to show any kind of consistency this season and its form of recent weeks has been especially poor. Hapoel would be happy to have Netanya's problems as its rock-bottom position looking more and more like the place it deserves. On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Betar Jerusalem at Bloomfield Stadium in one of the biggest grudge matches Israeli soccer has to offer.