Local Soccer: Bnei Yehuda looks to defend lead

Bnei Yehuda will enter the second weekend of the Premier League season in first position after the Israel Football Association disciplinary court awarded the team a 3-0 technical victory over Ashdod SC on Thursday in a match that originally ended in a 1-1 draw on Sunday. Ashdod had somehow failed to notice that defender Israel Rosh was carrying a one match suspension from last season and allowed coach Yossi Mizrahi to include the center back in Sunday's match. The IFA regulations clearly state that the use of a suspended player will result in a technical loss and, as a result, Bnei Yehuda, which only equalized in the 89th minute of Sunday's game, moved to the top of the standings. Ashdod, which was also fined NIS 5,000 and had Rosh suspended for a further two matches, said it intends to appeal the decision. "We are looking into every possible option, including an appeal," said Ashdod CEO Rafi Nidam. Bnei Yehuda will likely drop from first place for at least 48 hours on Saturday as it only hosts Ahi Nazareth in its second match of the season on Monday. On Saturday, Ashdod will look to rebound from the demoralizing decision when it visits Hapoel Haifa, which surprised Maccabi Netanya 2-1 on the road last week. Maccabi Haifa will be hoping to avoid a Champions League hangover when it faces Hapoel Ra'anana in Kfar Saba. Haifa, which advanced to the Champions League group stage for the second time in club history on Tuesday, struggled against newly promoted Hapoel Acre last week, only winning 2-1 thanks to Shlomi Abreitman's 89th minute goal. Ra'anana will be hosting its first top-flight match in club history and will be looking to record the first big shock of the season. Maccabi Tel Aviv, which had led the standings until Thursday's IFA ruling, visits Hapoel Petah Tikva and will be expecting to build on its 3-1 victory over Bnei Sakhnin in the first weekend of the season. Petah Tikva also began the season with a win, defeating Nazareth 2-1. Also Saturday, Hapoel Ramat Gan hosts Hapoel Beersheba and Netanya visits Acre. On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv faces Maccabi Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium, with Betar Jerusalem to visit Bnei Sakhnin in what will surely be a hotly contested match on Monday. On TV: Hapoel Petah Tikva vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (live at 5:15 p.m. on Sport 1); Hapoel Ra'anana vs. Maccabi Haifa (live at 5:00 p.m. on Sport 2).