Hap TA rallies late to draw at Ashdod

After falling behind 3-0, Reds stage comeback to grab a point; still four back of first.

hapoel tel aviv_311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
hapoel tel aviv_311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 at Ashdod SC on Sunday night, with Ben Sahar scoring a dramatic equalizer in the 90th minute.
Ashdod opened a stunning 3-0 lead by halftime, with Dimitar Makriev (16, 39) and Moshe Ohayon (38) punishing Hapoel’s disappointing defensive play.
However, the reigning-champion proved in the second half that it should never be counted out, with Toto Tamuz netting a brace (51, 73) before Sahar snatched a point for Hapoel.
Despite the impressive comeback, Tel Aviv’s failure to claim all three points leaves it four points back of league-leader Maccabi Haifa, with three more matches to be played before the start of the championship playoffs.
“It is a shame we dropped two points, but considering the way the match developed we can be pleased with the result,” Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said. “The players deserve credit for coming back, but we will not let them forget what happened in the first half.
“There are still three more matches before the playoffs and I have a feeling that both Hapoel and Haifa could drop more points.”
Ashdod was the more dangerous team from the start and should have taken the lead after 10 minutes.
Nir Biton began his team’s break forward at the halfway line and received the ball back from Makriev five meters from Itamar Nitzan’s goal, but sent his shot woefully wide.
However, the hosts had to wait just six more minutes before breaking the deadlock.
Yossi Shekel’s goal-kick was headed down field by Biton and Makriev coolly chipped Nitzan, who was substituting for the injured Vincent Enyeama.
Eran Zahavi twice came close to scoring five minutes later, shooting from the edge of the area before heading over Shekel’s goal.
But Hapoel rarely threatened Shekel and two goals within two minutes gave Ashdod a remarkable 3-0 lead at the break.
In the 38th minute, Ohayon converted his seventh penalty kick in seven attempts this season for his 13th league goal after Walid Badier lunged at Rahamim Tzukul and left the referee with no option but to point to the spot.
Hapoel went into complete shock after conceding a second goal and just one minute later Ashdod netted a third.
Ohayon and Makriev exchanged passes and the Bulgarian striker slotted in his second goal of the night with an excellent one-touch finish.
Makriev almost completed a hat-trick at the start of the second half, but his shot went wide and eight minutes after the interval Tamuz got Hapoel back into the game.
Tamuz sent a powerful header at goal from Gal Shish’s cross and Shekel failed to save it despite being well placed.
The goal gave Tel Aviv the impetus it needed to increase the pressure on the hosts and much of the remainder of the match was played in Ashdod’s half of the field.
An accurate left-footed shot by Tamuz from the edge of the area in the 71st minute brought Hapoel within one goal and the reigning-champion returned home with a point after some poor goalkeeping by Shekel allowed Sahar to shoot into an empty net in the 90th minute.
Also Sunday, Hapoel Petah Tikva took a crucial step towards another season of Premier League soccer after defeating Bnei Yehuda 2-1 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Fabian Stoller gave Petah Tikva the lead in the 15th minute, but Bnei Yehuda, which hadn’t lost in its previous seven matches, had no intention of going down without a fight.
Pedro Galvan equalized with his 12th league goal of the season in the 61st minute and Bnei Yehuda should have taken the lead two minutes later, but Pini Balili squandered a golden opportunity.
The visitors of course lived to rue the miss, with Guy Dayan scoring the winner in the 65th minute to take Petah Tikva 10 points clear of the relegation zone.