Kiryat Shmona claims another shut out win

Northerners blank Hap Rishon 2-0 to maintain six point lead; Betar finally wins.

Steven Cohen 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Steven Cohen 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona kept its sixth straight clean sheet on Saturday night to maintain its six-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings, while Betar Jerusalem won for the first time in nine matches to climb out of the relegation zone.
Kiryat Shmona defeated Hapoel Rishon Lezion 2-0 at home for its eighth win in nine matches, extending its unbeaten streak to 18 games.
Shimon Abu-Hazeira, who was much-missed in last week’s 0-0 draw at Ashdod SC, scored the opener with an accurate effort from 20 meters out in the 17th minute, with Adrian Rochet clinching the three points with his second goal of the season three minutes after the break.
“Our win was never under any doubt,” Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben- Shimon said. “We could have scored more goals, but overall the guys are doing amazing things and we will get better as the season progresses.”
There was further good news for the northerners on Saturday after thirdplaced Hapoel Tel Aviv dropped two more important points after being held to a 1-1 draw at Hapoel Beersheba.
Tel Aviv controlled the match and took the lead through Roei Gordana in the 51st minute, but Ido Eksbard equalized in the 90th minute after a poor clearance from goalkeeper Apoula Edel.
“Beersheba didn’t threaten our goal for the entire 90 minutes and their equalizer was not deserved,” said Tel Aviv coach Dror Kashtan, whose team now trails Kiryat Shmona by nine points after failing to win for the fifth time in six matches.
“Soccer can sometimes be a cruel game.”
Ashdod SC continues to lead the chasing pack after claiming a hardfought 3-2 win at Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday.
Ashdod fell behind to Sebastien Sansoni’s 13th-minute opener at Petah Tikva’s Moshava Stadium, but Yossi Mizrahi’s side showed true grit by coming back to win for the first time in three matches and take its unbeaten run to 14 games, remaining six points back of Kiryat Shmona.
Paty Yeye equalized in the 32nd minute before goals from Israel Rosh (51) and David Revivo (82) secured the victory, with Omer Golan’s 90thminute goal of little consolation for Petah Tikva, which has lost three straight matches and is only four points off the relegation zone.
“We were superb in the second half and could have scored more goals,” Mizrahi said. “This win proves our maturity and we are already focused on our next match.”
Betar Jerusalem’s two-month wait for a win finally ended on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Maccabi Netanya in front of empty stands at Teddy Stadium.
Betar, which was deducted two points last week for its fans’ racist taunts, hadn’t won a match since defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv on November 7, but it picked up all three points on Saturday courtesy of Steven Cohen’s 86thminute winner.
Cohen took advantage of a defensive melee to score the opener in the 25th minute, and despite Nir Nahum’s 75thminute back-heel equalizer, the midfielder ensured the hosts left with all three points with his second goal of the night four minutes from time.
“We played okay,” Betar coach Yuval Naim said. “Steven was supposed to come off, but in the last second I decided to keep him on and take a gamble and I’m very happy it paid off. We have been waiting a long time for this win.
We have still got plenty of work to do, but the players deserve a good word for this win.”
Meanwhile, Bnei Yehuda thrashed Hapoel Petah Tikva 5-1 at Bloomfield Stadium to climb to sixth place.
Dean Mori (24), Asaf Ben-Muha (52, own-goal), Pini Balili (58) and Pedro Galvan (65, 87) scored for Bnei Yehuda, with Yaniv Luzon (69) netting a meaningless consolation for the visitors.
Also Saturday, Nebojsa Marinkovic’s 90th-minute winner gave Hapoel Acre a dramatic 1-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa, with the Serbian being sent off seconds after scoring, receiving a second yellow card for taking off his shirt during his celebration.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, while Maccabi Haifa hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.