Mac Haifa, Hap TA claim 1-0 wins

Greens survive scare at home from Ashdod; Reds keep up pressure by dumping Sakhnin.

gili vermut hap ta 311 (photo credit: AP)
gili vermut hap ta 311
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv both pulled out crucial 1-0 home victories on Sunday night, although the Reds had a far more comfortable evening than their championship rival.
Tel Aviv strolled to victory over Bnei Sakhnin after Eran Zehavi grabbed a 34th minute goal which turned out to be the only strike of the night. Haifa, meanwhile, was made to work for its three points, enduring a tense 94 minutes against Ashdod SC and only scoring two minutes before the end.
Muhammad Ghadir’s goal ensured the gap at the top of the league standings remained at nine points and allowed Haifa coach Elisha Levy to breathe a sigh of relief. Levy’s team had appeared close to dropping another two points following last week’s shock defeat at Maccabi Netanya.
“We created more chances. It’s good that we won in the end,” said Levy.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, however, was always in control of its match, and had few problems ending Sakhnin’s five-match winning streak.
Hapoel Tel Aviv 1, Bnei Sakhnin 0
The game at Bloomfield began at a slow pace, perhaps a hangover from Tel Aviv’s final European game of the season on Thursday night.
But, it was the home side which controlled the encounter, leaving Sakhnin to do all the running.
Togan striker Arafat Djako was the only player on the visiting side who threatened to really make an impact on the Hapoel defense, slipping beyond the Tel Aviv back line on more than one occasion in the opening quarter of an hour without creating real scoring chances.
At the other end, Omri Canada shot high and wide in the 20th minute as Eli Gutman’s players slowly but surely stamped their authority on a match they knew they would have to win to have any chance of keeping up with Maccabi Haifa.
The limited pressure paid off with ten minutes left in the half. Canada sneaked into the penalty box from the right wing and sent in a super cross which Zehavi corralled into the net, giving Sakhnin goalkeeper Meir Cohen little chance.
Sakhnin upped the pace after the goal and Maharan Abu Raiya should have done better when he passed instead of shooting a few meters out from goal.
The second half was another slow affair with Gili Vermut’s piledriver smashing against the crossbar the highlight of a less-than inspiring 45 minutes.
“We won by the skin of our teeth but we won. I’m proud of my players,” said Gutman.
Maccabi Haifa 1, Ashdod SC 0
Ashdod started the brighter of the two clubs at Kiryat Eliezer, as Nir Nachum powered forward before firing in a speculative effort which didn’t trouble goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch.
The hosts soon woke up, however, and a series of shots culminated with Lior Rafaelov forcing a save from Dragan Stoijkic in the visiting goal. The link-up play between the Haifa midfield and attack was superb, illustrating a gulf in class which appeared sure to result in a goal.
First, Gustavo Boccoli came close to opening the scoring with a stinging half-volley which Stojkic tipped over, then Shlomi Arbeitman knocked the ball achingly wide from a meter out.
If Haifa needed any help, it came from referee Eitan Shmuelovich who sent off Adir Tubul in the 32nd minute for what seemed to be a perfectly legitimate challenge on Boccoli.
Haifa had seven corners and 17 attempts on goals throughout a firsthalf in which Ashdod had only 39 percent possession, but the Greensjust couldn’t get the ball into the net.
The second half began in a similar manner to the first, with Maccabipiling on the pressure and Stojkic stopping everything thrown at him.
As the game wore on, the hosts began to lose their touch while thevisitors started to launch a wave of tentative attacks. Ashdod strikerDimitar Makriev tested Davidovich on more than one occasion and thetension built among the Haifa faithful.
Finally the goal came. With just over two minutes to go Rafaelov loftedthe ball into the box and substitute Ghadir rose unchallenged to headhome and save the Haifa blushes.