Local Soccer: Tough test for Matthaus's Maccabi Netanya at Ashdod
Recently the team has looked nothing like the title contender it hopes to be.
By ALLON SINAI
Just one month ago Maccabi Netanya was flying high after climbing to the top of the Premier League standings following a 3-2 road defeat of Maccabi Haifa.
In its five matches since, however, Lothar Matthaus's team has won just once, and has drawn its last three league encounters.
Even while leading the table, Netanya was far from convincing, but nevertheless still managed to grind out results.
But Netanya's mediocre form caught up with it four weeks ago, and ever since the side has looked nothing like the title contender it hopes to be.
Haifa has opened a four-point cushion at the top of the standings and is threatening to run away with the league, unless Netanya can quickly get its act together.
On Saturday, Matthaus's men visit Ashdod SC and can't afford to return home with anything less than the three points.
Ashdod, however, will be anything but a pushover, winning five of its seven matches at home to date, with the defeats coming against Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa.
Yossi Mizrahi's team thrashed Hapoel Petah Tikva 4-1 last week and can close within four points of Netanya should it win on Saturday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is just two points from 11th position, which leads to a relegation playoff, goes in search of its first win in over a month when it hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday.
Since winning its first game under the guidance of Avi Nimni, Maccabi has lost two and drawn three of its matches, and has failed to find the back of the net in the last couple of weeks.
Sakhnin, on the other hand, comes into the match high on confidence after its recent good run.
Since Eyal Lachman took charge, Sakhnin has lost just once in five matches, winning twice and drawing twice.
In its last two away matches, Sakhnin held both Betar and Netanya to draws and wil be looking for a similar outcome at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday.
Still fuming from Ironi Kiryat Shmona's late equalizer last week, Hapoel Tel Aviv will look to get back on track at Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday.
A dubious penalty call cost Tel Aviv two valuable points last week and with the gap from Haifa now at nine points a victory on Saturday is a must if the team has any intention of challenging for the title.
On Monday, Betar visits Haifa, in what is surely the two-time reigning champion's last chance to peg back Elisha Levy's team.
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