K8 draws with Ashkelon to stay in 1st; Greens keep pace after being held by Ashdod.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv rebounded from last week’s loss in the derby with a 2-0 victory over Hapoel Ramat Gan on Saturday to close within two points of the top of the Premier League standings.Maccabi Haifa continued to stutter, however, drawing 1-1 at home against Ashdod SC.After being humbled by Hapoel Tel Aviv, the yellow-and-blue got an ideal opportunity to recover on Saturday, and had no trouble brushing aside a weak Ramat Gan squad.It took Maccabi less than two minutes to break the deadlock courtesy of Maor Buzaglo, and the three points were as good as guaranteed in the 33rd minute after Buzaglo set up Roberto Colautti for the team’s second goal of the night at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.“We are pleased with the result because we knew there would be a hangover effect from the derby,” Tel Aviv manager Avi Nimni said. “We will experience difficulties down the road, but we will challenge for the championship.”At Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, Haifa’s poor form caught up with it and Elisha Levy’s men could only manage a disappointing draw against Ashdod.Despite struggling with its performance, Haifa had claimed victories in four of six matches until Saturday. However, a 52nd minute Moshe Ohayon strike stunned the Greens, which only escaped with a point thanks to Lior Rafaelov’s accurate free-kick 20 minutes later.Advertisement“We didn’t play well,” admitted Levy.“We lost our composure in a match which we needed to win. We played better than last week, but that is still not good enough. We are disappointed because a lot is expected from us and we haven’t lived up to it.”Ashdod coach John Gregory was also frustrated with Saturday’s result.“We are disappointed because we had the lead and should have held on to it,” said the former Aston Villa boss.Meanwhile, Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s run was halted by fellow newly promoted side Hapoel Ashkelon on Saturday.After winning four straight games, Kiryat Shmona came unstuck against a gritty Ashkelon team, which has lost just once this season.Eran Levy gave Ashkelon the lead after five minutes, only for the hosts to turn the match on its head with two goals within four minutes by Elroei Cohen (14) and Yaniv Lavi (18).However, Levy would tie the score with another rocket in the 34th minute and Kiryat Shmona was denied victory for only the second time this season.“I’m pleased with the way we played, but the result leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben- Shimon said. “We played positive soccer, but Ashkelon scored two goals from three chances and we couldn’t make the most of our complete control in the second half.”Hapoel Acre came back from a goal down to claim a surprise 3-1 victory over Bnei Yehuda on Saturday.Ilya Yavruyan gave Bnei Yehuda the lead in the 33rd minute, but Roei Dayan tied the score for the hosts in the 71st before Arafat Djako gave Acre all three points with a late brace (84, 87).Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya drew 1-1 with Hapoel Haifa, while Hapoel Petah Tikva fought out a 0-0 deadlock at Hapoel Beersheba.Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Sunday, with Betar Jerusalem to host Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.
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