Local Soccer: Maccabi Haifa closes in on Betar

Only five points separate the top seven teams in the Premier League after Maccabi Haifa, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Kfar Saba all won on Saturday.

mac haifa 88 (photo credit: )
mac haifa 88
(photo credit: )
Only five points separate the top seven teams in the Premier League after Maccabi Haifa, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Kfar Saba all won on Saturday. Haifa effortlessly cruised to a 2-0 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium and is once more within touching distance of the top of the table. Hapoel on the other hand, failed to build on its derby win two weeks ago and returned to last place in the standings. Also on Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv kept its first clean sheet of the season, defeating Maccabi Herzliya 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium. Maccabi Petah Tikva climbed to second position thanks to a 2-0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin. Maccabi Haifa 2, Hapoel Tel Aviv 0 Haifa moved within five points of Betar on Saturday night with one of its easier wins of the season. The host team was never threatened by an embarrassingly weak Hapoel side and easily kept its third straight clean sheet. Haifa, which has won five of its last seven league matches, scored twice from headers within 12 first half minutes and continued to climb up the standings. In the 17th Dekel Keinan headed Giovanni Rosso's cross between Tel Aviv goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama's legs to score the opener. Yaniv Katan's pass 12 minutes later all but ended the encounter after Brazilian Renato soared above the visitors defense to head in his side's second goal. "I'm very encouraged. I think we're finally starting to hit form," Haifa coach Roni Levy said. Hapoel coach Guy Luzon was in a despondant mood. "Neither team reached many chances," he said. "They took advantage of their opportunities and that won them the game." Maccabi Tel Aviv 2, Maccabi Herzliya 0 Two goals in two second half minutes gave Tel Aviv its second win in three matches and lifted the team off the foot of the table. Yaniv Azran, who was the Premier League's top scorer last season, found the back of the net for the first time this season, heading in Ravid Gazal's cross in the 54th. Yannick Kamanan then set up Yossi Shivhon, who clinched the win with a cool finish. "I'm satisfied with the three points, but we're not celebrating anything yet," Tel Aviv coach Nir Levin said after the match. "This is the first time this season we've not conceded and that is a very positive development." Maccabi Petah Tikva 2, Bnei Sakhnin 0 Two late goals for Petah Tikva helped the team leapfrog Sakhnin into second place. Five minutes before the final whistle Ismael Amar's cross was turned in by Ohad Kadusi, who was playing against the club he led to promotion last season. Four minutes later Omer Golan doubled the hosts lead, easily beating Sakhnin keeper Meir Levy. Hapoel Kfar Saba 3, Ashdod SC 1 Kfar Saba recorded its first home win of the season on Saturday, defeating a poor Ashdod side, which has now lost three straight matches. Samuel Yeboah gave the hosts the lead in the 10th minute, scoring from the edge of the area. In the 65th minute, Yeboah scored his second goal of the match and seventh of the season, elegantly chipping the ball over Adjei. Idan Shriki's goal brought Ashdod back within one goal of Kfar Saba six minutes before the final whistle, but two minutes later Israelevitch made up for his earlier miss and scored, making sure his team would finally claim a home win. "We played well today. We only converted a few of our many scoring opportunities," Kfar Saba coach Eli Ohana said. "We finally won at home at that's very good news. I'm glad we won for a second straight time and we're definitely on the right path." Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2, Bnei Yehuda 1 Kiryat Shmona claimed its first win in five matches on Saturday, defeating the free-falling Bnei Yehuda. Yossi Rosen gave the visitors the lead nine minutes into the match, but two Kiryat Shmona goals in the last six minutes of the first half sent Bnei Yehuda to its fifth straight league defeat. In the 39th minute, Viam Amasha made the most of Guy Tzarfati's excellent through ball and tied the score. In first half stoppage time Abas Suan blasted the ball into the right corner of the Bnei Yehuda goal, scoring what would prove to be the winner. "We didn't play well, but the most important thing is that we got the three points," Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon said. "I hope we continue to improve in the coming weeks, we still have plenty of work ahead of us."