Haifa starts looking unstoppable; Bnei Sakhnin earns first point

Maccabi Haifa wins 7th straight, increases its lead at the top of the table to eight points.

swan 88 (photo credit: )
swan 88
(photo credit: )
Reigning champion Maccabi Haifa won its seventh straight game of the season and increased its lead at the top of the table to eight points with a 2-1 win over Ashdod SC on Saturday, while bottom of the table Bnei Sakhnin earned its first point of the season with a dramatic draw at Bloomfield Stadium against Hapoel Tel Aviv. Matchday 7 will be completed Sunday night with the Tel Aviv derby between Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Both teams are with 13 league points and the winner will take sole possession of second place in the table. Eyal Berkovic is expected to start for Maccabi, despite his recent feud with coach Nir Klinger. Ofir Haim, who has scored some crucial goals for the yellow-and-blue this season, is doubtful for this fixture. Hapoel Kfar Saba 0, Betar Jerusalem 2 Jeff Tituana and Lior Asulin scored within the span of nine minutes in the first half to give Betar three points on the road. Betar coach Guy Azuri made a few changes by demoting Yoav Ziv to the bench and giving Tituana and Omri Afek a chance in the starting lineup. Kfar Saba's Avi Tikva was absent due to injury. The yellow-and-black came ahead looking for the early goal, with Maor Melikson showing flashes of genius with some slick moves and brilliant passing. In the 20th minute, Mazua Ensombo dribbled past the Kfar Saba defenders and squared the ball for Tituana, who found the back of the net to give the visitors the lead. Betar doubled the lead nine minutes later, when Melikson showed great vision to set up Asulin in the box. Asulin sent in a low drive to made it 2-0 for the visitors. The game was sloppy in the second half with very little action in the penalty areas and very few chances in front of goal. Ashdod SC 1, Maccabi Haifa 2 Yaniv Katan and Arik Benado passed their fitness tests just hours before the game and opened in Haifa's starting lineup, despite suffering from minor injuries. Ashdod SC played the first half very defensively and marked Haifa's midfielders Idan Tal and Xavier Dirsao. The greens were unable to play their usual attacking football and the first half ended in a goalless stalemate. Haifa came out to the second half with all guns blazing and Ashdod couldn't contain the visitors' attacks. The hard work paid off in the 59th minute. Katan lifted the ball into the penalty area from the left flank and Michael Zandberg slipped past the host defense to head in the ball and give Haifa the lead. The champions struck again from the left flank in the 76th minute. Full back Adoram Keisi made a great run and crossed a tricky ball into the area. Ashdod goalkeeper Sami Edgy fumbled the ball and Brazilian Gustavo Boccoli, who was lurking unmarked in the box, stabbed in to give the greens a 2-0 lead. Veteran striker Shai Holtzman managed to score for the hosts in extra time, which turned out to be no more than a consolation goal. Hapoel Tel Aviv 2, Bnei Sakhnin 2 The visitors struck first in the 30th minute, when Nigerian striker Pasqual Kondafoni was brought down in the penalty area and Sakhnin captain Abbas Suan made no mistake and fired in the spot kick, leaving Shavit Elimelech no chance. But Tel Aviv retaliated with some blistering attacks, led by Baruch Dego and international Walid Badier, who made his 300th appearance in the Premier League. The reds were awarded a corner in the 37th minute. Yossi Abuksis took the set piece and Asi Domb headed the ball towards Ibazito Ogabuna, who glanced in the ball to score the equalizer. Sakhnin struck again in the 49th minute. Ahmed Kasum took full advantage of a lapse in the hosts defense to tap in the ball from point blank range, giving his team a surprising 2-1 lead. Tel Aviv failed to create dangerous attacks in the second half, but earned a penalty in the 87th minute when Elyaniv Barda was fouled 10 meters from Meir Cohen's goal. Shimon Gershon kept his nerve and elegantly chipped in the ball, sending Cohen the wrong way. Sakhnin coach Lufa Kadosh said after the game: "We deserved the win, but I can't say I am disappointed with this draw. I still think that we need new signings to survive." Upper Nazareth 2, Maccabi Petah Tikva 0 Croatian Mislav Kregolan (43) and Guillermo Israelovic (77) found the net for the hosts. Maccabi Petah Tikva's Soli Tzemach was sent off in the 89th minute. Hapoel Petah Tikva 0, Maccabi Netanya 2 In Friday afternoon's fixture, coach Reuven Atar's Netanya won at the Petah TikVa Stadium for the first time in 18 years. Alen Masudi (23) and Shlomi Edri (71) scored to give the yellows their third consecutive win. On TV: Bnei Yehuda vs Maccabi Tel Aviv (live at 8:50 p.m. on Channel 10)