Maccabi Tel Aviv maintains comfortable cushion

In showdown of top two local teams, yellow-and-blue holds Mac Haifa to 0-0 draw.

The Maccabis square off (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The Maccabis square off
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Only an unprecedented collapse will deny Maccabi Tel Aviv a first Premier League title since 2003 after the yellow and- blue maintained its 10-point gap at the top of the standings on Saturday night with a 0-0 draw against second placed Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium.
Tel Aviv failed to extend its eight match winning streak, but it won’t mind one bit after keeping Haifa at bay and all but extinguishing any lingering hope the Greens may have had of closing the gap in the final eight games of the season.
Despite an open start to the match, both teams combined to create very few chances throughout the 90 minutes, with the well-coached sides canceling each other out.
“We faced a good team and we did the best we could,” said Tel Aviv coach Oscar Garcia. “We haven’t won the title yet. There is still work to be done.”
Haifa coach Arik Benado also insisted that the Greens are still fighting for the championship.
“We had our chances, but we weren’t sharp enough,” he said. “We were the better team and we could have put Tel Aviv under pressure with a win.
“However, under no circumstance will we give up until the final whistle of the season. There are still plenty of matches remaining.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Hapoel Acre climbed out of the relegation zone, sending Maccabi Netanya to last place with a 2-0 victory.
After going 16 matches without a win, Acre has been a transformed team since coach Yuval Naim took charge and claimed its fourth victory in its past six encounters on Saturday thanks to a Nebojsa Marinkovic brace (63, 93).
Meanwhile, Netanya showed little improvement in Reuven Atar’s first match back with the team as coach, dropping to its third straight loss, extending its winless skid to seven matches.
As if it didn’t have enough problems, Netanya was also playing without one of its foreign players after he had his remand extended by the District Court on Friday following his arrest in connection with the murder of Zahava Chukol, who was found dead outside the Carmel Hotel in the city.
“The match could have swung in any direction,” said Atar. “We essentially dropped six points but we will not give up.”
Hapoel Beersheba snapped its five game losing streak with a 1-1 draw at Hapoel Ramat Gan, keeping both teams just above the relegation zone.
Ran Itzhak gave Ramat Gan the lead in the 61st minute, with Dovev Gabai netting the equalizer for the visitors seven minutes later.
Hapoel Tel Aviv put some distance between itself and Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the battle for third place and European qualification on Saturday, beating Hapoel Ramat Hasharon 1-0 while the reigning champion was held to a 1-1 draw at Bnei Yehuda.
Toto Tamuz scored Tel Aviv’s winner in the 54th minute, giving the Reds consecutive victories for the first time since January.
Kiryat Shmona took a deserved 77thminute lead through Shir Tzedek, but Nenad Marinkovic leveled the score for Bnei Yehuda one minute from time.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem visits Ashdod SC and Bnei Sakhnin hosts Hapoel Haifa.
Roni Steinbach contributed to this report.