Struggling Hap TA drops another close one

Hapoel was leading the league standings just last week, but 2 straight 1-0 defeats, have seriously complicated its situation.

Hapoel Tel Avi 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Hapoel Tel Avi 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Premier League title hopes suffered a significant blow on Sunday night with a 1-0 defeat at Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Hapoel was leading the league standings just last week, but two straight 1-0 defeats, the first to Ironi Kiryat Shmona last Monday, have seriously complicated its situation.
The Reds have fallen to third place, and even though the season is still not even yet at its halfway mark, coach Dror Kashtan will not be happy with seeing his team five-points behind the streaking Kiryat Shmona, which recorded its ninth win in 10 matches with a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa on Saturday.
Just like in its match at Kiryat Shmona last week, Tel Aviv struggled to create scoring opportunities on Sunday, and when it eventually did, it squandered them.
For a second straight week, Hapoel had to manage without one of its lethal strikers, with Omer Damari suspended from the match against Petah Tikva after Toto Tamuz missed the encounter in Kiryat Shmona.
Tamuz came centimeters away from giving Hapoel the lead in the 10th minute on Sunday, expertly bringing down the ball before firing his shot against the post from 20 meters out.
Petah Tikva fans had little to cheer about for the first 28 minutes of the game, but in the 29th minute they found themselves celebrating a goal after Hapoel’s defense failed to clear a Danny Preda corner and defender Shay Maimon smashed in the opener from close range.
The hosts should have doubled their advantage eight minutes later, but Victor Merey made a real mess of his shot, firing high above the Tel Aviv goal with only ‘keeper Boris Klaiman to beat.
Merey was wasteful once more in the 54th minute when he shot wide instead of passing, and Petah Tikva almost paid the price.
Tamuz twice came close to equalizing, but goalkeeper Liran Strauber came to Petah Tikva’s rescue with excellent saves in the 88th minute and in the seventh minute of stoppage time to secure the victory which takes his team seven points clear of the relegation zone.
On Monday, Maccabi Haifa will look to release some pressure when it hosts Maccabi Netanya.
The reigning champion has lost two straight league games, leaving it 13 points behind Kiryat Shmona, while also suffering an early Europa League exit last week.