Betar looking to break loose at top of table

Sat. results: Mac. Netanya 0, Bnei Yehuda 0; Ashdod SC 1, Mac. Petah Tikva 2; Mac. TA 1, Hakoach Ramat Gan 0; Hapoel Petach Tikva 1, Mac. Herzliya 1.

The most talked about game so far this season is just around the corner. Front runner Betar Jerusalem and defending champion Maccabi Haifa square off tonight, for the first time this season, with both teams desperate to gain the upper hand and advance towards the coveted domestic championship. Around 500 police officers and 230 security guards will be on duty at a jam-packed Teddy stadium. Haifa will be desperate to initiate a winning streak, while the yellow-and-black looks to increase their lead at the top of the league table. Betar will be without the services of influential playmaker Fabrice Fernandes, who is suffering from a head injury and is expected to sit out for an extended period. Barak Itzhaki is also suffering from a knee injury and is doubtful for the important game. On Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv managed a 1-0 win over Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan, firing the team up to second in the table, just three points behind leaders Betar. Maccabi Netanya, Betar's main challenger so far this season, failed to overcome a nine-man Bnei Yehuda at "The Box" and managed only a goalless draw. Hapoel Petah Tikva and Maccabi Herzliya ended their relegation tussle with a 1-1 deadlock, while Maccabi Petah Tikva came from behind to beat Ashdod SC 2-1 in a tough away fixture. Maccabi Netanya 0, Bnei Yehuda 0 The first half was played at a slow pace, with the most exiting incident being the dismissal of Bnei Yehuda's Salim Abu Siam who collected his second yellow card in the 37th minute and received his marching orders. Netanya took control and went ahead with relentless attacks on the visitor's goal in the second half, but failed to take advantage of the situation after wasting all of its goal-scoring chances. Hervoje Kovacevic was sent off in the 84th minute, leaving Bnei Yehuda with nine-men on the field, but the oranges managed to hold on and earned a well-deserved draw at "The Box". Ashdod SC 1, Maccabi Petah Tikva 2 Fabiano Marcio Giovanini was the tragic hero in the opening stages of the contest, as he headed in an own goal, giving hosts Ashdod the breakthrough in the third minute. Petah Tikva kept its cool despite failing to find the goal in the first half, with the hard work paying off after the halftime break in the form of two quick strikes. Ori Luzon, who entered the game as a substitute in the 60th minute, made no mistake and sent in a free kick just three minutes later to bring the visitors back on level terms. Patrick Suffo completed the comeback in the 67th minute with a brilliant solo move. Maccabi Tel Aviv 1, Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan 0 Ramat Gan, known for its notorious draws with Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa earlier this season, showed no inferior complex against the yellow-and-blue. Yossi Rozen fired in a trademark piledriver before the halftime whistle, but the ball came off the post and went out of play. Maccabi started the second half with an attacking frame of mind and took the lead in the 49th minute. Moshe Mishaelov's shot appeared to be off target, but eventually rolled into the Ramat Gan goal after Miljan Mrdakovic accidentally diverted the ball and sent goalkeeper Israel Philosof the wrong way. Hapoel Petach Tikva 1, Maccabi Herzliya 1 Ibon Arrieta gave Reuven Atar's side the perfect start, after he converted a penalty kick in the third minute and gave Maccabi Herzliya a brilliant chance to collect all three points from the bottom-of-the-table encounter. But the hosts didn't give up and found the equalizer in the 55th minute. Yaniv Luzon took the ball in his stride in midfield and found Maor Buzaglo in the area. The forward made space and sent in a low drive to bring his team back on level terms.