Maccabi TA back on top after Reds stumble

Yellow-and-blue beat Netanya 2-1 while Hapoel Tel Aviv only manages 2-2 at Hapoel Haifa.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's ELIRAN ATAR 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's ELIRAN ATAR 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv leapfrogged Hapoel Tel Aviv back to the top of the Premier League standings on Saturday night, eking out a 2-1 victory over Maccabi Netanya at Bloomfield Stadium while the Reds were held to a draw for a third straight match.
The yellow-and-blue got the start it was hoping for when Eliran Atar scored his 14th league goal of the season with a penalty kick in the fourth minute.
However, the hosts couldn’t consolidate their lead, and pressure was mounting at Bloomfield after Dragan Ceran equalized for Netanya in the 34th minute.
It took Tel Aviv plenty of time to reestablish its dominance in the second half, but it scored a deserved winner in the 77th minute, with substitute Robert Earnshaw scoring from close range from what seemed like an offside position.
“We played well in the second half and we deserved to win,” said Maccabi coach Oscar Garcia after seeing his team return to winning ways following a draw with Betar Jerusalem and a defeat at Maccabi Haifa. “We have to work hard to win every game.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv seemed to be cruising towards another week in first place when Walid Badier gave it a 2-0 lead over rock-bottom Hapoel Haifa in the 25th minute at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, with Toto Tamuz netting the opener five minutes earlier.
The Reds had numerous chances to extend their advantage, but ended up drawing for a third consecutive match, with Guy Tzarfati scoring twice from the penalty spot (58, 84) before Tel Aviv’s Roei Gordana was sent off in the 89th minute.
“This draw is a huge disappointment,” said Tel Aviv coach Yossi Abuksis, whose side has picked up just a total of three points against three of the league’s four bottom teams over the past two weeks.
“We reached countless chances but we missed and we missed and they scored from two penalties I’m not sure they deserved. Instead of winning 4-0 we ended up drawing 2-2.”
Hapoel Ramat Gan continued its revival under coach Eli Cohen on Saturday, climbing out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 triumph over Bnei Yehuda at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Anton Arkhipov scored the only goal of the game in the 60th minute, extending Ramat Gan’s unbeaten streak to three matches.
Bnei Sakhnin also put some distance between itself and the relegation zone on Saturday thanks to a 2-1 win at third-placed Ashdod SC.
Khaled Khalaila (3) and Ahmed Kasoum (30) put Sakhnin in a comfortable position and Ashdod dropped to its fourth defeat in five matches despite Obada Zbidat’s sending off in the 51st minute and Dimitar Makriev’s goal (87).
Hapoel Ramat Hasharon moved up to sixth place on Saturday, beating the struggling Hapoel Acre 2-0 courtesy of goals from Moshe Abutbul (61) and Efraim Aspa (92).
Betar Jerusalem visits Hapoel Beersheba on Sunday, while the red-hot Maccabi Haifa, which has won four straight games, goes to Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday.
Roni Steinbach contributed to this report