Local Soccer: Netanya can't get past Mac Tel Aviv

Goaless draw at Bloomfield disappoints fans; Haifa beaten by Bnei Yehuda.

Maccabi TA soccer 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi TA soccer 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
There are still six rounds to play in the Israeli Premier League, but Betar Jerusalem can already all but clinch the title on Sunday with a victory over arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv after both Maccabi Netanya and Maccabi Haifa failed to win on Saturday. Netanya played out a drab 0-0 draw with Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium, allowing Reuven Atar's team to hold on to second place in the Premier League, but no more. Haifa was beaten 1-0 at home by Bnei Yehuda. A victory for Jerusalem on Sunday will move Itzhak Schum's side on to 64 points, 18 ahead of Netanya. With only 18 points available in the remainder of the season, only goal difference could prevent Betar taking its second straight championship. As Jerusalem has a far superior goal difference of +39 compared to Netanya's +13, even if Betar wins, the championship will only be confirmed when it picks up another point. The results, combined with Bnei Sakhnin's whopping 4-0 win at Maccabi Petah Tikva and Ironi Kiryat Shmona's 3-1 victory at Hapoel Kfar Saba, left the fight for the UEFA Cup spots (second and third places) incredibly tight. Kiryat Shmona, Sakhnin and Netanya are currently all on 46 points with only goal difference separating the teams. Police will be on high alert at Bloomfield on Sunday following the debacle which followed last season's game at Teddy Stadium against Hapoel Petah Tikva where Betar fans claimed the championship despite not officially clinching and attempted to invade the field. Police action at that game on May 6 last year prevented the supporters from entering the field of play causing dozens to be injured in crushes on the terraces. Atar is one of a number of coaches expected to leave their club at the end of the season and his team did not appear to be playing with any heart throughout the 90 minutes against Tel Aviv. However, he rejected claims that his side played lukewarm soccer: "I don't understand why you say these things, I think we played very well. I am pleased," he said. "We played against a team fighting for its survival. We were missing many players and we didn't let it show." Nir Levin is another coach who is unlikely to hold on to his job come May, and tried to give some words of encouragement to his team. "We have to fight until the end," he said after the match. "Despite good control of the ball and dynamic play, we couldn't make today's game a victory. I was alert, the players wanted more, but it was not enough for a victory. " Haifa fell to its first league defeat to Bnei Yehuda in 15 years at Kiryat Eliezer. Moshe Biton scored the crucial winner for the Oranges five minutes before half time. Roni Levy, the Maccabi Haifa coach, has already announced that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season, and admitted it has not been a great campaign for the team. Criticizing his players, Levy said: "There have been better times and worse times, these are symptoms of a mediocre team. "I tried to convey to the players that there are enough good reasons to continue all the way to the end of the season, but it seems from what happened on the pitch that they didn't internalize it." Bnei Yehuda coach Hezi Shirazi was delighted with the result, although his team are still odds on to go down at the end of the season. "The boys came prepared. It justifies the good feeling I have about the club," he said after the match. "We are doing what we need to. We were put in a tight spot, but we will continue to fight, game by game." Meanwhile, Maccabi Herzliya's Nigerian striker Ekundayo Jayeoba scored two goals to give Freddy David's team a priceless 2-0 win over relegation rival Ashdod SC. The result plunged Ashdod back into the drop zone and brought Herzliya into safety. After a tense first half the breakthrough finally came in the 72nd minute. Maharan Radi chipped the ball over the Ashdod defense to Jayeoba who controlled the ball as 'keeper Sammy Adjei jumped at it and missed. Jayeoba made no mistake, firing Herzliya into the league. Four minutes later he grabbed his second through another link up with Radi. Ashdod pushed forward looking for the equalizer, but the home team's defense held firm.