Maccabi PT win heats up relegation battle

Petah Tikva now just three points from safety after defeating Hap Rishon Lezion 2-1.

MACCABI PETAH TIKVA striker Victor Merey 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
MACCABI PETAH TIKVA striker Victor Merey 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The battle against relegation from the Premier League was blown wide open on Saturday after Maccabi Petah Tikva moved to within three points of safety following its 2-1 win over Hapoel Rishon Lezion and Hapoel Beersheba’s 3-1 defeat to Hapoel Acre.
Hapoel Haifa is also still not safe, holding just a four-point cushion on the relegation zone after only managing a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on Saturday.
Maccabi Petah Tikva looked all but doomed two weeks ago when the Israel Football Association’s High Court reversed its previous decision and deducted the club three points for its involvement in March’s brawl at the Moshava Stadium.
However, its second straight win on Saturday, combined with other results going its way, has revived the side’s hopes of survival ahead of the final two matches of the season.
After a poor first half, Victor Merey gave Petah Tikva the lead in the 61st minute before Danny Preda clinched the win 11 minutes later with an accurate free kick, rendering David Gomez’s strike (81) meaningless.
“I said before the match that as long as we have a chance we must continue to fight,” said Petah Tikva coach Moshe Sinai.
“I tried to instill that belief in the players and after a bad first half we were much better in the second.
“I believed we could survive before the match so I sure believe we can get the job done now.”
Petah Tikva visits Hapoel Acre on Tuesday before hosting Ramat Hasharon in its final league match on Saturday.
Beersheba could find itself back in the relegation zone on Tuesday after losing at home to Acre.
Nicolas Falczuk (23) and Nebojsa Marinkovic (42) ensured Acre was cruising at the break and Sintiyahu Salalik (85) extinguished Beersheba’s hopes after Siraj Naser got a goal back for the hosts in the 58th minute.
Beersheba goes to Ramat Hasharon on Tuesday before hosting Betar Jerusalem to cap its campaign on Saturday, needing four points to secure its Premier League status regardless of other results.
Hapoel Haifa needs three points from its final two matches to secure its survival after it was held to a 1-1 draw by Ramat Hasharon at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, with Ran Abukarat giving the hosts the lead in the 29th minute before Efraim Aspa equalized in the 57th.
Haifa visits Betar Jerusalem on Tuesday before hosting Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Betar extended its league-best winning streak to eight matches on Saturday, beating Hapoel Petah Tikva 2-0.
Tzahi Elihen (14) and Liron Diamant (90) scored for Betar.
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Beni Yehuda remained in the driving seat for European qualification, strengthening their positions in second and third place, respectively, with wins on Saturday.
A Maharan Lala brace (35, 90) gave Hapoel a 2-0 road-win over Ashdod SC, while Bnei Yehuda beat Bnei Sakhnin 3-0 at Doha Stadium courtesy of goals from Dean Mori (21), Dino Ndlovo (29) and Pedro Galvan (43).
Sakhnin’s Oded Elkayam was sent off for the foul that led to the free kick netted by Galvan.
Maccabi Netanya dropped important points in the fight for the two Europa League berths on Saturday, losing 3-1 to champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Hen Ezra gave the hosts the lead in the 33rd minute, but Kiryat Shmona replied with three second half goals through Ben Vahava (55), David Solari (73) and Shlomi Azulai (88). Maccabi Haifa hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday.