Local Soccer: Netanya making final push for the top

League leader Mac Haifa hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva with coach Levy staying cautious.

Mac Haifa 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Mac Haifa 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Netanya will have to beat Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday night or its lingering hopes of claiming a first league title in 26 years will all but vanish. Netanya currently trails top-of-the-table Maccabi Haifa by six points and club owner Daniel Jammer ruled out any chance of the team winning the championships after seeing it suffer a 2-0 defeat to Bnei Yehuda last week. It's quite remarkable Netanya is still in with an outside chance to take the title with eight matches remaining in the season as it has only won four of its last 13 league games. Nevertheless, Lothar Matthaus and his men are still within striking distance of Haifa, but for that to remain the case after this weekend they will need to defeat the struggling Petah Tikva on Saturday. Petah Tikva is winless in its last seven matches, failing to pickup all three points since its 2-1 victory against Hapoel in the local derby on the last day of January. Haifa and second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv should, on paper, have no trouble defeating their respective opponents on Saturday. Haifa hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva, which hasn't won in five matches, with Elisha Levy's team going for its fourth win in five games. "It's quite obvious the race for the title will go down to the wire," Haifa forward Yaniv Katan said. "The final outcome is still in our hands, although Hapoel, Betar and Netanya are good teams and are still in the race." Katan was pleased with his side's 3-0 win at Ashdod last week, but is confident Haifa will not be resting on its laurels. "The win in Ashdod gives us a lot of confidence, but we must remember we haven't taken the championship yet," Katan said. "We know there are no easy matches and Petah Tikva has proven itself as a good team this season. However, at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium I believe we will get the job done." Petah Tikva coach Ze'ev Zeltzer is wary of the threat Haifa poses, but believes his side can give the league leader a real test. "If I were a Haifa fan I'd be very pleased after the victory over Ashdod, so facing them on Saturday is very worrying," Zeltzer said. "Even though Haifa deservedly leads the table we will come and play soccer, looking to record a good result." Tel Aviv will be a massive favorite to claim its fifth win in six matches when it hosts Ashdod SC on Saturday, especially considering Ashdod's performance in last week's loss to Haifa. Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan can climb off the foot of the table on Saturday with a victory over second to last Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Hakoach had only lost once in five matches before last week's 4-0 thrashing at Betar Jerusalem and will be confident of leapfrogging a Kiryat Shmona side, which has won just once in its last 17 encounters. Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bnei Sakhnin. On Monday, Betar hosts Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium.