Reds need pair of penalties to grab 3 points

Hapoel Tel Aviv keeps pace with Haifa, 2 games before points-halving; Sakhnin’s Drapic resigns.

HAPOEL TEL AVIV striker Toto Tamuz 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
HAPOEL TEL AVIV striker Toto Tamuz 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv kept alive its hopes of overhauling Maccabi Haifa and entering the Premier League championship playoffs in first place on Monday night, defeating Hapoel Petah Tikva 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium.
Tel Aviv still trails Haifa by four points with two more matches to be played ahead of the start of the playoffs and the halving of point totals Barring a Maccabi collapse, the Reds look set to visit last season’s runner-up in what will likely be the championship decider on April 30.
After needing a late comeback to draw 3-3 at Ashdod SC in its last league match, Tel Aviv was once more far from its best on Monday, winning thanks to two penalties.
Toto Tamuz netted his 17th league goal of the season to move top of the scorers list in the sixth minute after Gili Vermut was toppled over in the box by Israel Zaguri, with Ben Sahar clinching the win from the penalty spot with his 14th league goal in the 58th minute.
“We needed these points,” Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman said. “We have lost enough points in matches we should have won this season and the only thing we cared about today was taking the points. A championship you take with beautiful soccer and with character.”
Petah Tikva remains in 13th place in the standings, but Naim is confident his team will avoid relegation.
“We are missing an attacking player and that makes all the difference,” Naim said. “My goal is to make sure Petah Tikva stays in the league and if the management doesn’t want me to continue next season than I will have to move on.”
Hapoel got off to an ideal start after Tamuz smashed in the opener with the match less than six minutes old, but the reigning-champion struggled to develop its usual free-flowing play without the injured Eran Zahavi, who sat in the stands with goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and Dedi Ben-Dayan, who missed yet another encounter.
Petah Tikva had its moments and didn’t allow Tel Aviv to dominate the possession, but Yuval Naim’s men lacked cutting edge and rarely threatened goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan.
Any hope Petah Tikva may have had of leaving Bloomfield with something ended in the 58th minute after Elroei Cohen was brought down in the box by I’iad Houtaba and Sahar secured the win with a clinical spot kick.
“This was not an easy match,” Tamuz said. “Petah Tikva are in excellent form and we are happy we managed to win.”
In other Israeli soccer news Monday, Slobodan Drapic resigned as coach of Bnei Sakhnin after the team dropped to 15th place on Sunday following a 4-1 defeat to Hapoel Haifa.
Sakhin is winless in its last six matches, winning just once in its last nine contests.
Drapic, who joined Sakhnin at the end of September, is expected to be replaced by former Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Ramat Gan coach Shlomi Dora, who will become the club’s fourth coach of the season.