Soccer: Haifa gains ground on Betar J'lem, Netanya

Greens beat Bnei Yehuda 3-0 while Betar held at home against Ironi Kiryat Shmona; Bnei Sakhnin moves into second place with a 3-0 win over Ashdod SC.

maccabi haifa 88 (photo credit: )
maccabi haifa 88
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Haifa returned to winning ways and made up lost ground on Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya on Saturday after the two teams dropped points for a second straight week. Betar ended its second straight match in a goalless draw and Netanya dropped a two-goal lead and lost to Hapoel Kfar Saba. Also on Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin moved into second position with a 3-0 win over Ashdod SC and Maccabi Petah Tikva began the post-Yossi Mizrahi era with a 1-1 draw away at Maccabi Herzliya. On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv in a match that neither team can afford to lose. Over 600 Maccabi fans and 400 Hapoel supporters attended their team's final training sessions on Saturday with the aim of motivating the players ahead of the most anticipated Premier League match of the season to date. Bnei Yehuda 0, Maccabi Haifa 3 Two early goals for Maccabi Haifa helped the team to a convincing away win over the struggling Bnei Yehuda. Haifa collected just one point in its previous two matches, but had far too much quality for a Bnei Yehuda side which has now lost four straight matches. Maccabi pushed forward for a goal right from the start and was rewarded in the third minute. Brazilian midfielder Renato headed Omri Afek's corner kick to give his team the lead. Ten minutes later the hosts' defense failed to deal with an Afek corner once more and Dekel Keinan prodded the ball home with ease. Afek completed his excellent day in the 60th minute of the match when his weak shot somehow found its way into the Bnei Yehuda goal. "We're giving Haifa fans reasons to be optimistic, but we must improve our play gradually," Afek said after the match. "We started the season poorly, but we're improving with every week that passes and things are looking positive." Betar Jerusalem 0, Ironi Kiryat Shmona 0 After scoring in all seven of its first league matches, Betar failed to find the net for a second straight week on Saturday. The reigning champion played one of its poorer matches of the season and deserved no more than the one point. "In the last few weeks we haven't been playing the way Betar should," Jerusalem coach Yitzhak Schum said. "We will try to correct the wrongs in the coming weeks and hopefully look better in our next match against Netanya." Maccabi Netanya 2, Hapoel Kfar Saba 3 Netanya led 2-0 after 16 minutes thanks to Okocha's brace, but an outstanding comeback by Kfar Saba, which hadn't won in five matches, gave the visitors a surprise away win. The hosts took the lead in the 12th minute after Okocha finished off a good team move and the Ghanaian slotted home his second goal just four minutes later. The two goal deficit didn't break Kfar Saba's spirit and Samuel Yeboah brought the side back into the match with a goal in the 32nd minute. Just five minutes later the visitors tied the score. Avihai Yadin released an unstoppable shot from 25 meters out that gave 'keeper Liran Shtrauber no chance. In the 81st minute Hapoel completed the comeback. Yeboah struck a powerful volley from 10 meters out to give his team all three points. "This is a huge win," Kfar Saba coach Eli Ohana said. "To score three goals against the best defense in the league is no small feat." Bnei Sakhnin 3, Ashdod SC 0 Maor Buzaglo led Sakhnin to second position with one goal and two assists against a poor Ashdod side. Buzaglo set-up Basem Ganaem in the 26th minute for the host's first goal and Ilia Yavorian scored Sakhnin's second goal thanks to another assist by the talented midfielder. Buzaglo got the goal he deserved 10 minutes before the final whistle, firing a thunderous shot into the roof of the net. Maccabi Herzliya 1, Maccabi Petah Tikva 1 Former Aston Villa manager John Gregory watched the match from the stands and will meet the Petah Tikva management on Sunday. Meanwhile, assistant coach Ofer Fabian guided the coach-less Petah Tikva to a 1-1 draw against Herzliya on Saturday. In the 28th minute Ohad Kadusi gave the visitors the lead, but Kfir Edri's equalizer in the 60th minute ensured the points would be shared.