Kiryat Shmona goes top ahead of TA derby

Down a man, Greens tip Acre 1-0; Maccabi Haifa wins a second consecutive Premier League match for the first time this season.

Maccabi Haifa 311(R) (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa 311(R)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa won a second consecutive Premier League match for the first time this season on Saturday, showing the heart of a champion by beating in-form Hapoel Acre 1-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium despite going down to 10 men in the 28th minute.
Haifa’s hopes of building on the 4-1 thrashing of Betar Jerusalem and finally winning two straight league games seemed to be over after Eyal Meshumar was sent off for denying Acre’s Yuval Shabtai a clear shot at goal, leaving referee Shay Shitrit with no option but to show the Haifa defender a red card and award the visitors a penalty.
However, Stefan Scepovic missed the subsequent spot kick, sending his penalty against the crossbar, and Vladimir Dvalishvili scored the winner in the 54th minute with a clinical finish.
“Everything seems to be going tough for us this season, but we showed our character tonight,” said Haifa coach Elisha Levy, whose team is now just four points off the top of the standings.
“We had to play with 10 men for many minutes, but we were patient and recorded a very important win.”
Ironi Kiryat Shmona climbed to the top of the table for at least 24 hours on Saturday, edging Betar Jerusalem 1-0 at home.
Shimon Abu Hazeira scored the only goal of the match in the 64th minute after some good build up play by Ravid Gazal, giving Kiryat Shmona its sixth win in seven matches and extending its unbeaten streak to 11 games.
“We need to know how to win matches even when we don’t play well and we did that today,” Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon said. “This was a tough victory and we have no reason to apologize to anyone for the way we got it.”
Jerusalem lost for the fourth time in five matches and continues to languish in 11th place.
Hapoel Tel Aviv can return to first place on Sunday with a win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the much-anticipated derby at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hapoel has been far from convincing in recent weeks, but Maccabi enters the derby in a much worse situation having won just one of its past six matches.
Maccabi’s Canadian owner Mitch Goldhar will be in Bloomfield on Sunday, saying he cleared his schedule to be with his struggling team.
“My investment is not short term,” he said on Saturday. “It’s not like the stock market. I don’t appraise the value of my investment from one week to another.
Talk to me five years from now and ask me how I feel about my investment.
“What we have been going through lately is difficult but it is also normal. We are all learning.
I’m learning. Moti’s learning. And together we will get stronger. So don’t get excited – this is the coach,” he added, ruling out any speculation that Moti Ivanir might be sacked if Maccabi loses on Sunday.
One coach who is out of a job is Nitzan Shirazi, who left Hapoel Haifa on Saturday after it suffered a 2-0 loss at Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Amir Nusbaum (50) and Moshe Abutbul (85) scored for Ramat Hasharon, handing Haifa its eighth defeat in 13 matches this season.
Ashdod SC continued its excellent start to the season on Saturday, beating the sorry Hapoel Beersheba 2-0.
Ben Butbul (50) and Efe Ambrose (81) scored for Ashdod, which won for the fourth time in five games and is unbeaten in seven matches.
Maccabi Netanya and Bnei Sakhnin drew 1-1 on Saturday, with Ahmed Saba giving the visitors the lead from the penalty spot in the 29th minute before Kostadin Hazurov equalized for Sakhnin (69).
Also Saturday, Hapoel Rishon Lezion and Hapoel Petah Tikva drew 0-0, with Maccabi Petah Tikva to host Bnei Yehuda on Monday.