Haifa on verge of championship after victory over Mac TA
Maccabi Haifa can claim a 12th championship in club history with a victory over Ironi Kiryat Shmona next week.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Haifa can claim a 12th championship in club history with a victory over Ironi Kiryat Shmona next week after beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday night to open a four-point margin over Hapoel Tel Aviv, which could only manage a 2-2 draw against Maccabi Netanya.A week after defeating Hapoel 2-0 to leapfrog the Reds into first place in the standings, Haifa made the most of its chances against the yellow-and-blue, and after so cruelly missing out on the title last season, is on verge of reestablishing its dominance in Israeli soccer.Tomer Hemed gave Haifa a dream start with a sixth minute opener, and his second goal of the night – and 11th in the last 13 matches – in first half stoppage time all but clinched the three points for the Greens and moved them within touching distance of a seventh league title in 11 years.“We have taken another very significant step, but we are not celebrating just yet,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said.“We knew we had to win tonight and another victory against Kiryat Shmona at home will make us champions.We knew how to overcome the pressure and scored at crucial moments. We mustn’t party too early because there are two more matches and we understand it’s not over yet.However, we know that our fate is in our hands.”AdvertisementEarlier at Bloomfield, Hapoel was held by Netanya after another disappointing performance by Eli Gutman’s team.Ahmed Saba put Netanya in front in the 57th minute after a superb Kobi Dajani through ball, but Gutman introduced Gili Vermut and Maharan Lala in the subsequent minutes and his offensive-minded substitutions paid off almost immediately.Toto Tamuz tied the score in the 69th minute and completed the comeback three minutes later when he was first to the rebound from Lala’s shot which came off the post.However, just three more minutes passed before Sergy Tretyak equalized for Netanya, ensuring the visitors extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches and all but ending Hapoel’s hope of a repeat, with the Reds hosting Maccabi Tel Aviv next week.“I can’t understand how we conceded an equalizer after going in front,” Gutman said. “This isn’t the same team as last season, but we have to continue to fight.”Also in the championship playoffs, a Liroy Zhairi brace (63, 83) gave Bnei Yehuda a 2-1 win at Kiryat Shmona, which got a consolation goal from Ori Shitrit (84).The battle against relegation heated up on Saturday after Hapoel Ashkelon beat Bnei Sakhnin 2-1 and already-relegated Hapoel Ramat Gan defeated Hapoel Petah Tikva by the same score.Nastjah Ceh scored the opener for Sakhnin in the 23rd minute, but Ravid Gazal (37) and Ilya Yavruyan (54) turned the match on its head and gave Ashkelon the precious win, which leaves it in 15th place, but moves it within one point of Sakhnin and two of Petah Tikva.Petah Tikva led from Yigal Antebi’s goal (27), but a Gal Cohen (64) owngoal and an injury time Ramat Gan winner by Ofir Haim seriously complicated Gili Landau’s team’s situation.Betar Jerusalem effectively secured itself another season of top-flight soccer with a 0-0 draw at Ashdod SC.The mid-table playoffs ended on Saturday, with Hapoel Acre defeating Hapoel Haifa 2-1 thanks to Mohammed Kalibat’s stoppage time goal, with Maharan Radi (80) giving the hosts the lead before Alon Buzorgi (87) equalized momentarily for Haifa.Yoni Uzan scored in the 93rd minute to give Hapoel Beersheba a 1- 1 draw with Maccabi Petah Tikva, which took the lead through Murad Abu Anza in the 45th minute.
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