Hapoel edges Sakhnin in Gutman’s return

Maccabi TA listless in 4-0 loss to Kiryat Shmona; Betar draws with Hap RG.

Hapoel Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman guided his team to the top of the Premier League standings in a triumphant return to the sidelines on Saturday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv’s title hopes look to be all but over after a humiliating defeat at Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
The reigning champion returned to winning ways after last week’s defeat at Betar Jerusalem, beating Bnei Sakhnin 1-0 at Bloomfield Stadium thanks to Toto Tamuz’s excellent finish in the 49th minute, his 13th league goal of the season.
“I was very emotional at the start of the match,” said Gutman, who hadn’t guided the team in almost seven weeks after suffering a heart attack. “We played well today. We pressured Sakhnin and created enough chances to win by a much bigger margin.”
Maccabi Haifa, which is one point behind Hapoel, can return to first position with a victory over Hapoel Haifa on Monday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv players talked up their chances of winning the league title ahead of Saturday’s match at Kiryat Shmona, but they were embarrassed by Ran Ben-Shimon’s team, falling to a 4-0 thrashing.
“This is a very disappointing and painful day,” said Maccabi coach Moti Ivanir, whose team has won just once in its past four matches. “This is a cruel result, but we need to lift our heads and look forward to next week’s match.
“We can’t think about taking the championship at the moment. We just need to focus on entering the playoffs with as many points as possible.”
Kiryat Shmona led 3-0 by the break, punishing Maccabi’s poor defending time and again.
Barak Badash gave the hosts the lead in the 25th minute with an unstoppable header after an accurate Ori Shitrit cross.
Five minutes from the break, Wiyam Amashe scored his first league goal since returning from injury, catching the Maccabi defense napping and coolly lobbing the ball over a helpless Liran Strauber.
The Tel Aviv ’keeper gifted Kiryat Shmona its third goal in first half stoppage time, spilling Adrian Rochet’s header and allowing Ben-Shimon’s rising star to tuck in the rebound.
Yaniv Lavi completed the clinic in second half injury time with a superb free kick from the edge of the box.
“We played with our heads and hearts and that showed,” Ben-Shimon said.
“We produced our best performance of the season at the perfect moment.”
Betar Jerusalem was brought back down to earth following its victory over Hapoel last week, managing just a 0-0 draw at rock-bottom Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Roni Levy’s team struggled once more to create scoring opportunities, failing to put the ball in the back of the net for the fifth time in its last seven matches, with the win over the Reds last week being its only victory in that stretch.
“I had a feeling towards the end of the match that we would go on to win but we couldn’t do it,” said Levy, who was fortunate to leave Winter Stadium with a point after Zion Zemah’s curling effort came off the crossbar three minutes from time. “We didn’t have enough patience to break down Ramat Gan’s defensive formation. At least we have improved our defense in recent weeks and showed determination.”
Hapoel Beersheba won for the first time in five matches on Saturday, defeating Hapoel Ashkelon 4-3 in a thrilling goal-fest.
The visitors seemed to be cruising when leading 2-0 and 3-1, but needed an 80th minute goal from defender Oded Gavish to take all three points.
David Revivo gave Beersheba the lead from the penalty spot in the 14th minute and William Suarez doubled the advantage 17 minutes later.
Mahmoud Abbas (43) got Ashkelon back into the match before the break, but Amaya Taga would reestablish Beersheba’s two goal cushion in the 63rd minute with an own-goal.
However, two goals in five minutes, the first from Ilya Yavruyan (68) and an own-goal from Lior Zan (73), would tie the score, only for Gavish to score the winner 10 minutes from time, handing Ashkelon its seventh straight loss.
Hapoel Petah Tikva moved seven points clear of the relegation zone, beating Ashdod SC 3-1, with Alon Turgeman (18, 61) and Yaniv Luzon (23) scoring for the hosts and Moshe Ohayon (87) netting a consolation goal for Ashdod.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Acre draw 1-1 with Maccabi Petah Tikva, with Omer Damari (9) giving Petah Tikva the lead, only for Geva Barkai (78) to equalize.
Bnei Yehuda hosts Maccabi Netanya on Sunday.