Local soccer: Mac TA and Mac Haifa battle to 1-1 draw

Both lose ground on the top of the Premier League standings.

mac haifa 88 (photo credit: )
mac haifa 88
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa lost ground on the top of the Premier League standings on Sunday night after their match ended 1-1 at Bloomfield Stadium. Following a lackluster first half, the tempo picked up. Avi Nimni gave the hosts the lead in the 58th minute until Yaniv Katan's equalizer 14 minutes later. Tel Aviv remains in third place, three points behind Betar Jerusalem at the summit. Haifa has still played one match less than its top-of-the-standings opponents. The draw on Sunday leaves the club seven points behind Betar with plenty of catching up to do. The match was halted for five minutes only seconds after kickoff when Haifa fans threw a smoke grenade onto the field. Those fans may have known what was ahead because watching the policemen clearing the smoke grenades would prove to be the most exciting thing to happen in the first 45 minutes. The hosts did most of the attacking at the start of the match, with Giovanni Rosso hitting the goalpost directly from a corner kick in the eighth minute. Five minutes later, Omer Peretz got the ball in a great position in the Haifa box, but his left-footed shot was collected by 'keeper Nir Davidovitch. The hosts were enjoying their best period of the half. Moments after Peretz came close, Milan Mardikovic was only centimeters off with his deflected shot. Tired Haifa showed nothing of the form that brought it European success just days ago and the club failed to create a single serious scoring opportunity on the hosts' goal. In the prolonged injury time, Rosso had a golden opportunity to give Tel Aviv the lead before the half, but he could only fire well wide from an open position in the center of the visitors' box. Both sides raised their play at the start of the second half and Haifa finally began to create chances. Good teamwork in the 54th minute ended with a Gustavo Boccoli shot that didn't threaten the hosts' 'keeper. Four minutes later, Tel Aviv took the lead with a well-executed set piece. Nimni hit a superb free kick from just outside the box. Haifa continued to improve as the match progressed and should have equalized in the 66th minute. Shlomi Arbitman only had Davidovitch to beat, but his left-footed shot sailed wide of the post and kept the hosts' lead intact. Six minutes later, Haifa finally scored but not without controversy. Referee Eitan Tabrizi had at first indicated that Tel Aviv defender Avi Yehiel had touched the ball with his hand in the box and awarded the visitors a penalty. However, after further discussion with the linesman, Tabrizi reversed his previous decision and gave Haifa a corner. Tabrizi wasn't finished changing his mind and then decided to speak to the other linesman. After even more discussion, he gave the visitors a deserved penalty kick. Katan converted the kick and tied the score. Both sides were pleased with the draw and left with no more than they deserved.