Late goal gives Maccabi Haifa derby draw

Cesarec score in 93rd minute costs Hapoel Haifa much needed two points.

Hen Azriel (left) and Hapoel Haifa’s Oshri Roash_370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hen Azriel (left) and Hapoel Haifa’s Oshri Roash_370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa’s hopes of defending its Premier League title may long be dead, but it at least showed the pride of a reigning champion on Saturday night, equalizing in the third minute of stoppage time to draw 1-1 in the derby against Hapoel Haifa, costing its arch-rival two precious points in its battle against relegation.
Yuval Avidor gave Hapoel the lead with an excellent finish in the 75th minute of a largely uneventful match, but the hosts couldn’t hold on at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, with Danijel Cesarec tying the score in the 93rd minute.
“We weren’t smart enough at the end of the match and it cost us dearly,” said Hapoel Haifa coach Tal Banin, whose team remains just two points off the relegation zone.
“I hope these points we lost don’t end up costing us our place in the top flight.”
Hapoel Beersheba brought some cheer to the bombarded city on Saturday, beating Hapoel Rishon Lezion 2-1 to climb out of the relegation zone ahead of the splitting of the league into two sections next weekend, with each side to play one more time against the teams in its half.
Beersheba players were given an extra workout last week when rocket fire from Gaza forced them to run for cover during several of their training sessions.
The southerners also entered Saturday’s encounter on the back of last week’s 5-1 thumping at the hands of Bnei Yehuda, but they still managed to find the strength to record a crucial home win against a fellow struggler.
Moshe Ben-Lulu gave Rishon the lead after 20 minutes, but Siraj Naser (27) and Diya Saba (65) turned the match on its head and Beersheba climbed from 14th place to 12th.
“I believed we would stay in the league when our situation was much worse a few months ago and now we are playing much better,” Beersheba coach Guy Levy said.
“If we continue to believe in ourselves we will stay up.”
Beersheba moved out of the bottom three at the expense of Maccabi Petah Tikva, which could only manage a 0-0 draw at Hapoel Acre, failing to win for a sixth straight match.
Betar Jerusalem can move five points clear of Petah Tikva and the relegation zone on Monday with a home victory against Bnei Yehuda.
A win will take Betar within three points of Ramat Hasharon in 10th place after it was held to a 1-1 draw at Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday.
Yaniv Luzon gave Petah Tikva the lead from the penalty spot in the 36th minute before Baruch Dego equalized for Ramat Hasharon five minutes later.
The battle for European qualification got even tighter on Saturday, with just one point now separating Hapoel Tel Aviv in second place and Maccabi Netanya in fifth.
Netanya thrashed Maccabi Tel Aviv 3- 0 on Saturday, courtesy of goals from Ahmed Saba (48, 64), who took his total for the season to a league best 18, and Firas Mugrabi (86).
Netanya is two points ahead of Maccabi Haifa and three in front of Maccabi Tel Aviv, who could both drop in the table depending on Monday’s result between Bnei Yehuda and Betar.
Bnei Sakhnin and Ashdod SC remained tied on points in third and fourth places, respectively, after playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw on Saturday.
Idan Shriki scored the opener for the hosts in the 22nd minute before Sakhnin’s Khaled Khalaila equalized from the penalty spot a minute from the break.
Kostadin Hazurov (56) put Sakhnin in front and the visitors were in control after Maharan Radi (66) scored from the rebound of his missed penalty.
Substitute Ben-Zion Moshiashvili handed Ashdod a life line in the 83rd minute and Amir Lavi ensured the points would be shared with a successful penalty in the third minute of stoppage time.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona visits Hapoel Tel Aviv in a showdown between the top two on Sunday. Only women and children under the age of 14 will be able to enter the match at Bloomfield Stadium after the Israel Football Association’s High Court partially accepted Hapoel’s appeal for the punishment it was handed for the violence displayed by its supporters after the derby encounter against Maccabi Tel Aviv.