Maccabi TA, Maccabi Haifa march on

Hemed and Atar score two each while Betar Jerusalem loses in Sakhnin

maccabi tel aviv soccer 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
maccabi tel aviv soccer 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
An 87th minute winner by Tomer Hemed gave Maccabi Haifa a 2-1 victory at Ashdod SC, extending its lead at the top of the Premier League standings to five points.
Haifa once more struggled to break down its opponent, but Hemed came to his team’s rescue for a second straight week, scoring twice against Ashdod after netting a 77th minute winner against Bnei Sakhnin last week.
“Ashdod is a tough team to beat on the road,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “We didn’t create many chances, but we made the most of the ones we had and recorded a sweet victory.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv remained six points behind Haifa, cruising to a 3-0 win at Hapoel Ramat Gan on Saturday.
Hapoel Tel Aviv can close to within two points of the Greens when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday.
At Ashdod, the hosts took a surprise lead in the 14th minute, with Nisso Kapiloto heading in the opener on his Ashdod debut after moving to the club on loan from Maccabi Tel Aviv until the end of the season.
John Gregory’s team had chances to double its advantage, but Hemed needed just one opportunity to equalize in the 33rd minute.
Haifa’s ever-improving striker controlled Gustavo Boccoli’s ball from the right flank before sending an unstoppable volley into the back of the net.
The Greens struggled to create chances in the second half, but got the winner in the 87th minute courtesy of another “piece of magic” by Hemed, as described by Gregory.
Hemed lost his defender with a quick turn before scoring the winner with his left foot to give Haifa all three points.
At Winter Stadium, Maccabi Tel Aviv looked to dominate from the start but had to wait until the 50th minute to make the breakthrough.
Dimitar Rangelov’s through ball left Eliran Atar with only the ‘keeper to beat and the Tel Aviv striker slotted in the opener.
Atar clinched the win with his 10th league goal of the season 13 minutes later, losing his marker with ease before scoring with a leftfooted effort.
Dor Micha completed the scoring to cap an impressive debut two minutes from time, taking coach Moti Ivanir’s league record since taking charge of the yellow-and-blue to four wins and a draw.
Betar Jerusalem dropped to its first defeat under coach Roni Levy on Saturday, losing 1-0 at Bnei Sakhnin.
Ahmed Kasoum scored the only goal of the match in the 24th minute, making the most of an Ariel Harush howler.
The Betar goalkeeper dropped Sakhnin’s corner kick and Idan Tal’s clearance was turned into the goal by Kasoum.
“Anyone who might have thought that Betar will not battle against relegation until the end of the season has got to get back in touch with reality,” Levy said.
Hapoel Petah Tikva continued its recent revival on Saturday, beating Hapoel Beersheba 3-1 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan for its third straight win in all competitions.
Ido Eksbard (29), Rafi Dahan (50) and Guy Dayan (90) scored for Petah Tikva, with Avi Yehiel (71) netting a consolation goal for the losers.
Maccabi Netanya also claimed its third successive win in all competitions, surprising Hapoel Haifa 2-1 on the road.
Eden Ben-Basat (27) gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot, but Nir Nahum (48) and Dele Yampolsky (51) turned the match on its head with two goals in three second half minutes.
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehuda beat Hapoel Acre 1-0 through Liroy Zhairi’s seventh minute strike. Hapoel Ashkelon hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday.