Draw sends Mac PT to National League

Petah Tikva is relegated for first time in over two decades after 0-0 tie with Ramat Hasharon.

Maccabi Petah Tikva players  370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Petah Tikva players 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After 21 straight seasons in the top flight, Maccabi Petah Tikva was relegated to the National League on Saturday night.
Petah Tikva needed to defeat Hapoel Ramat Hasharon and for other results to go its way to maintain its Premier League status, but it could only manage a 0-0 draw at the Moshava Stadium and will join Hapoel Rishon Lezion and Hapoel Petah Tikva in the second division next season.
Israel Football Association chairman and former Maccabi Petah Tikva boss Avi Luzon provided another horror show to his ever-growing repute after the final whistle, attacking the IFA High Court for the three points it deducted Petah Tikva at the end of March.
Even had Petah Tikva won it would have been relegated after Hapoel Beersheba got the win it needed by beating Betar Jerusalem 3-1 at Vasermil Stadium and Hapoel Haifa defeated Hapoel Petah Tikva 2-1.
Dovev Gabai (6) and Yossi Shivhon (15) put Beersheba in the driving seat at Vasermil and Dan Eibinder’s (33) strike proved to be no more than a consolation goal for Betar after Gabai reestablished Beersheba’s two-goal cushion on the brink of halftime.
Hapoel Haifa was in real trouble after Orel Edri gave Petah Tikva a 29th-minute lead, but two goals from Vladimir Gluscevic in four second half minutes (50, 53) ensured Haifa stayed up.
Earlier Saturday. Hapoel Tel Aviv clinched second place in the standings and a Europa League berth with a 1-1 draw against Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Yaniv Katan gave Haifa the lead from the penalty spot in the 24th minute, but Elroei Cohen equalized for Hapoel in the 54th and Haifa will have to beat Tel Aviv in the State Cup final on Tuesday to qualify for continental competition.
A draw would have been enough for Haifa to secure a place in Europe had Maccabi Netanya not scored a 94th minute winner for a 3-2 victory against Bnei Sakhnin.
Goals from Pieter Mbemba (15) and Idan Viezman (38) gave Sakhnin a 2-0 lead at halftime, but Mohammed Kalibat (68), Ahmed Saba (84), who ended the season as the league’s leading scorer with 20 goals, and Omri Ben-Harush (94) completed a dramatic comeback in Netanya’s final match at the Kofsa Stadium, which has been used by the club since 1943.
Netanya will now be crossing its fingers that Hapoel Tel Aviv beats Haifa in the cup final as that would mean that fourth place is also good enough to qualify for the Europa League as Tel Aviv has already booked its place by finishing as runner-up.
Bnei Yehuda, which already secured its berth in Europe last week, ended the season in third following a 2-1 defeat at Ashdod SC.
Idan Shriki (7, 83) netted a brace for Ashdod, with Nenad Marinkovic scoring for Bnei Yehuda in the 38th minute.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv beat champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona 3-2, with Munas Dabbur (37), Eliran Atar (41) and Dor Micha (47) scoring for the yellow-and-blue and Barak Badash (21) and Shlomi Azulai (55) finding the back of the net for Kiryat Shmona.
The battle for promotion to the Premier League will only be decided in a winner-takes-all playoff match between Hapoel Ramat Gan and Bnei Lod on Friday after the regular season ended with a three-way tie for first place.
Ramat Gan required a dramatic comeback to hold on to first place on goal difference, coming twice from behind to beat Hapoel Ra’anana 3-2 on the road.
After leading the National League standings for much of the season, Ramat Gan’s dreams of promotion looked to be over when it found itself down 2-1 late in the match.
However, Oren Nisim equalized in the 89th minute and Carlos Chakana capped the remarkable comeback one minute later to keep Ramat Gan in first place.
Maccabi Herzliya held a two-goal lead over Lod entering Friday’s matches, but its 1-0 win over Hapoel Jerusalem wasn’t enough to send it through to the playoff, with Lod thrashing Maccabi Ahi Nazareth 6-0 to finish in second place on goal difference and book a meeting with Ramat Gan.
Next Friday’s showdown will be as tense as any match in Israel this season, with Ramat Gan and Lod to meet for the first time since last month’s mass brawl between officials and players from both teams.