Maccabi Haifa bumbles back into first place

Haifa climbs to top of Premier League standings in far from impressive fashion, laboring to a 3-2 victory over rock-bottom Hapoel Ramat Gan.

Maccabi Haifa 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa climbed to the top of the Premier League standings in far from impressive fashion on Sunday night, laboring to a 3-2 victory over rockbottom Hapoel Ramat Gan at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Haifa looked like a team still in shock from last week’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv and needed a 69th minute goal from Idan Vered to take all three points against a Ramat Gan team which hasn’t won a match since September.
“Sadly, all our wins seem to come by the skin of our teeth,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said.
“Instead of knowing how to wrap up the win we conceded goals from set pieces. We had to win this match and we did that. We will play better in our next games.”
Haifa’s stay at the top may be short lived, with Hapoel Tel Aviv needing a victory at Betar Jerusalem on Monday night to move back into first position.
Haifa got off to an encouraging start after Lior Rafaelov gave it the lead in the 12th minute with an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area.
Carlos Chacana equalized 14 minutes later, but the hosts still had the lead at the interval following Tomer Hemed’s goal two minutes from halftime.
However, once more Haifa’s lack of composure came to haunt it, with Elin Topuzakov tying the score for Ramat Gan with a header in the 56th minute.
Nevertheless, Haifa still managed to end the match with all three points, with Vered sparing his team’s blushes with an accurate effort in the 69th minute.
Both Hapoel Tel Aviv and Betar representatives called for calm from the club’s supporters on Sunday after Jerusalem’s Beit Vegan training ground complex was vandalized on Saturday night.
The complex’s kitchen was set ablaze and graffiti of death threats towards Betar’s players was sprayed across the ground’s walls.
While Hapoel enters the match in top form, winning 10 of its last 12 league encounters, including the 4-1 victory over Haifa last Sunday, Betar hasn’t scored a goal in its last three contests, losing twice.
“There is no doubt that the team is in a difficult situation and we are calling for our fans to come along and support us because they are our only chance,” Jerusalem coach Roni Levy said.
“Hapoel is an almost perfect team by Israeli standards and we need to be careful in the way we approach the game against them.”