Ramat Gan humbles Maccabi Haifa

Three-time league championship winners fail to impress after in third defeat of the season.

soccer ball 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
soccer ball 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was a day of shock defeats in the Premier League on Saturday. Perrenial champion Maccabi Haifa's season went from bad to worse with a lackluster 1-0 defeat by Premier League minnows Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan at Winter Stadium on Saturday. And league leader Betar Jerusalem were humbled by Maccabi Herzliya, losing 2-1. Haifa, which won the last three league championships, failed to impress yet again in its third defeat of the season. Roni Levy's team was looking to turn on the pressure on frontrunner Betar, but fell prey to a determined Ramat Gan side when Shuki Nagar, a former Haifa player, scored the late winner for the hosts. Betar had a chance to increase its lead in the league table, but failed to overcome a physical and stubborn Maccabi Herzliya. Fredi David's team fell behind early in the game but scored twice in the latter stages of the game to steal the win. Mewanwhile, Hapoel Tel Aviv moved into second place with an easy 2-0 demolition of Hapoel Petah Tikva, while Ashdod SC lost to Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya. The last game of Game Day 17 will be held Sunday night at Bloomfield stadium, as Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda square off in what promises to be an intense Tel Aviv derby. A win by a three-goal margin can help the yellow-and-blue overtake archrival Hapoel Tel Aviv in the standings. In Ramat Gan, Haifa was without suspended goalkeeper Nir Davidovich, but dominated the proceedings in the opening minutes, with elegantly crafted attacks led by Yaniv Katan. However, the rainy conditions caused the greens attacks to be inaccurate and miss easy chances. Haim Magrashvili came close to humbling the adamant hosts two minutes before the halftime whistle. The swift left-back made an impressive run on the flank and dispatched a strong shot, which hit the upright and was cleared by the Ramat Gan defense. Haifa enjoyed most of the possession in the second half, but failed to capitalize on its superiority and paid the price in the 79th minute. Ramat Gan's veteran defender Nagar made a crucial tackle and let fly with his right foot, sending the ball into the goal. "We are playing very inconsistently this season," Levy admitted following the disappointing result. "When we play bad, everything goes against us. I won't comment about out championship chances right now. There is a lot of work to be done before we can call ourselves title contenders." Maccabi Herzliya 2, Betar Jerusalem 1 Betar entered the game as clear favorites, despite the problematic pitch conditions which hampered its trademark passing style. Yoav Ziv dented the Herzliya defense in the 30th minute, crossing the ball into the box and enabling Toto Tamuz to score from close range with a delightful diving header. Papi Kimoto stunned the yellow-and-black in the 66th minute. Herzliya's physical forward pressed Arik Benado, who passed the ball to goalkeeper Itzik Korenfein, who was out of position. Kimoto made the intervention and coolly rolled in the equalizer. Herzliya's onslaught continued and the Betar defense collapsed yet again just eleven minutes later. Mahran Radi took the ball in his stride and unleashed a piledriver with landed in the back of the net. The goal eventually proved to be the winner. "We made too many mistakes," Yossi Mizrahi commented on his team's dismal effort. "The three points were already ours, but we handed Herzliya the win. Our players could have salvaged at least a point in the end, but our players failed to score from easy chances." Hapoel Tel Aviv 2, Hapoel Petah Tikva 0 Yitzhak Shum fielded an attacking formation and the gamble paid off in the 35th minute. Barukh Dego made a slick run in a quick Tel Aviv counter attack and fed the ball to Walid Badir, who had no problem in providing the finish. The reds were awarded a free kick in the 66th minute, after Dego was fouled at the edge of the box. Salim Toema stepped up and sealed the fate of the game with a trademark free kick, which rendered goalkeeper Barak Visokar helpless. Ashdod SC 2, Maccabi Netanya 3 Netanya came out with an attacking gameplan and struck gold in the 10th minute, when Itai Shekhter dribbled past his markers and provided a sublime finish. Okocha doubled the visitors lead just 16 minutes later, after receiving a brilliant assist from Shekhter. Okocha completed his brace in the 54th minute header, giving his side a convincing 3-0 lead. Yaniv Azran (70') and substitute Yaniv Ben Lulu (90') gave the hosts a glimmer of hope, but the team eventually failed to salvage a point from the game. Maccabi Petah Tikva 0, Hapoel Kfar Saba 1 Petah Tikva entered the encounter without influential defender Morad Megamadov, which enabled the Kfar Saba attack to score in the 19th minute. Nigerian striker Samuel Yeboah did the damage, after heading in a Guillermo Israilevich cross from close range.