Relegation battle garners top-flight spotlight

Mac PT captures 3rd straight triumph to stay in hunt as Hap BS, Hap Haifa both draw.

Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The battle against relegation will only be decided with the final whistle to the season this weekend after Maccabi Petah Tikva recorded its third straight victory on Tuesday while Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Beersheba could only manage to draw.
Petah Tikva remains in the relegation zone despite its 2-1 victory at Hapoel Acre, but Moshe Sinai’s men are now just one point off Beersheba and safety after the southerners drew 0-0 at Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, with Haifa a further point in front after a goalless deadlock against Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium.
Petah Tikva looked all but doomed two weeks ago when the Israel Football Association’s High Court reversed its previous decision and deducted the club three points for its involvement in March’s brawl at the Moshava Stadium.
However, it has risen from the dead with three straight wins combined with unexpected results by Haifa and Beersheba, giving it a real reason to believe it can maintain its Premier League status for another season.
After Danny Preda did all the hard work down the left flank, Marwan Kabha tucked Petah Tikva’s opener into an empty net in the 11th minute, with Victor Merey doubling the team’s advantage with a clinical header 11 minutes into the second half.
Stefan Scepovic’s volley two minutes from time ensured a tense finish in Acre, but Petah Tikva held on for the three points and enters its final match of the season at home against Ramat Hasharon brimming with confidence.
“I really hope we can complete this comeback,” said Sinai. “We have won three straight games and we were simply the better team today. It is very difficult to play when your fate isn’t in your own hands, but we are playing for our lives.”
Petah Tikva could find itself relegated on Saturday even if it defeats Ramat Hasharon should Beersheba beat Betar Jerusalem at home and Haifa avoid defeat against Hapoel Petah Tikva, with Haifa having a vastly superior goal difference.
Beersheba had its chances to score on Tuesday, but it was also lucky not to concede, with Ramat Hasharon’s Moshe Abutbul hitting the crossbar with his free kick in the 82nd minute.
“We began the match well but then faded,” said Beersheba midfielder Yossi Shivhon. “We gave our all and reached some chances, but couldn’t convert them. We are disappointed with the result, but our fate is still in our hands. If we win our last match we will stay up. We will be hosting our final game and will have the backing of our fans and we believe we will remain in the Premier League.”
Also in the relegation playoffs, Hapoel Petah Tikva beat Hapoel Rishon Lezion 2-0 in an encounter between two teams already preparing for life in the National League.
Fabian Stoller (52) and Armon Ben- Naim (85) scored for Petah Tikva.
The fight for European qualification also remains wide open after Maccabi Netanya defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-1 at Bloomfield Stadium on Tuesday night.
Omer Damari gave Hapoel the lead in the ninth minute, but Hen Ezra’s superb strike in the 31st minute tied the score and Hen Reuven put the visitors in front in the 75th minute.
Toto Tamuz squandered a chance to equalize when he missed a penalty in the 79th minute and Firas Mugrabi clinched the win in the second minute of stoppage time after a swift team move.
Netanya moved up to fourth with the win, tied on points with Bnei Yehuda and two points behind Hapoel.
On Wednesday, third-placed Bnei Yehuda hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv, while Maccabi Haifa visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Also Tuesday, Ashdod SC beat Bnei Sakhnin 2-1.