Jerusalem blanks second-place Ashdod 1-0; K8 extends lead with Hasharon rout.
By ALLON SINAI
Any notion that Ironi Kiryat Shmona was unworthy to win the Premier League title due to its unconvincing performances was dispelled in emphatic fashion on Saturday night with a 4-0 victory over Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.Kiryat Shmona extended its lead at the top to 11 points over second-placed Ashdod SC, which lost 1-0 to Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium, with Leonardo Passos Alves scoring the only goal of the match in the 22nd minute to give the yellowand- black its third straight win.The embattled Hapoel Tel Aviv remains 12 points back of Kiryat Shmona, but at least it steadied the ship slightly on Saturday with a remarkable 7-3 victory over Maccabi Netanya, which ended the match with eight men.There were those who suggested that the fact that half of Kiryat Shmona’s previous 14 wins had come by a 1-0 score-line was a testament to the mediocre soccer being played by Ran Ben-Shimon’s team.However, the northerners not only kept their seventh clean sheet in their past eight matches on Saturday, but they also recorded their biggest win of the season so far by hitting Ramat Hasharon for four, silencing any remaining critics.Goalkeeper Danny Amos denied Ramat Hasharon an important opener with an instinctive save on Alain Masudi in the 23rd minute, and five minutes later, the hosts took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.Of all players, it was center-back Shir Tzedek who put Kiryat Shmona in the driving seat, sending a swerving shot into the back of the net from 30 meters out which Ramat Hasharon ’keeper Gal Nir should have saved.AdvertisementThe hosts were cruising by the break after Shimon Abu-Hazeira made the most of some lax defending to smash in the second in the 36th minute.Adi Elisha (65) made it a comprehensive win with an accurate effort from the edge of the area and Abu-Hazeira’s shot five minutes later smashed off the post and flew into the back of the net off Nir’s back to pile the misery on the visitors.“Kiryat Shmona wasn’t built to make a run for the championship so every week presents a new challenge for us,” said Ben-Shimon, whose team won for the 10th time in its last 11 matches, extending its unbeaten streak to 20 games.Hapoel Tel Aviv triumphed for just the second time in eight matches on Saturday, thrashing Netanya 7-3 at Bloomfield Stadium to give new coach Nitzan Shirazi a memorable first win with the Reds.Hapoel fans intensified their protest against owner Eli Tabib with an impressive display ahead of the match, but the turmoil at the club was forgotten during two extraordinary hours at Bloomfield.Netanya initially turned the match on its head after Omer Damari (15) scored the opener for Hapoel, with some awful defending gifting goals to Ahmed Saba (20) and Firas Mugrabi (21).The visitors handed Hapoel the boost it needed in the 24th minute when Lior Reuven was sent off for being the last man on defense and pulling back Toto Tamuz.Shay Abutbul scored from the subsequent free kick and the hosts led 3-2 at the break thanks to Tamuz’s 33rdminute goal.However, despite playing with one man fewer, Netanya never gave up and Hen Ezra made the most of Tel Aviv’s slow and disorientated defense to equalize three minutes into the second half.But any hope Netanya had of leaving Bloomfield with a point ended in the 62nd minute when goalkeeper Amir Edri was shown a red card for a reckless kung-fu kick at Tamuz, who stepped up to blast in the spot kick and put Tel Aviv back in front.Just one minute later, Saba let his frustration get the better of him and was shown a second yellow card after slapping Gal Shish, allowing Hapoel to pour salt on Netanya’s wounds with three more goals from Salim Toama (74), Damari (78) and Tamuz (84), who completed a hat-trick.Also Saturday, Eyal Lachman resigned as Maccabi Petah Tikva coach following its 3-1 home defeat to Bnei Sakhnin.Kostadin Hazurov (8), Allah Abu Saleh (57) and Maharan Radi (81) scored for Sakhnin, with Abu Saleh (68) also netting a consolation own-goal for Petah Tikva, which is now just two points off the relegation zone.Hapoel Beersheba is tied on 22 points with Petah Tikva after claiming a significant 2-0 home victory over Hapoel Haifa on Saturday courtesy of Diya Saba’s (48) strike and Lior Jan’s (76) own goal.Hapoel Acre strengthened its position in the top half of the standings with a 3- 1 win over Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday, with Sintiyahu Salalik (19), Stefan Scepovic (20) and Nebojsa Marinkovic (73) scoring for the winners and Fabian Stoller (39) netting for Petah Tikva.Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Rishon Lezion on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Haifa on Monday.
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