Hapoel was far from impressive for most of the game against Maccabi Petah Tikva and found itself a goal down after Tal Ben-Haim’s penalty in 52nd minute.
By ALLON SINAI
A 90th-minute goal by substitute Salim Toama gave Hapoel Tel Aviv a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Sunday, the reigning champion’s third straight Premier League victory.Hapoel was far from impressive for most of Sunday’s encounter and found itself a goal down after Tal Ben-Haim’s penalty in the 52nd minute.However, Douglas da Silva tied the score less than two minutes later and Toama curled in a free kick from 25 meters out to take Hapoel within four points of top-ofthe- table Ironi Kiryat Shmona.“Petah Tikva played well and gave us a tough time,” Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said. “We didn’t play fast enough, but we showed a lot of maturity by eventually winning the match.”Petah Tikva coach Freddy David was heartbroken by his team’s first league defeat since August.“This is very disappointing,” he said. “We reached enough chances to win the match.”Coming off Wednesday’s Champions League 3-1 defeat at Schalke, Hapoel looked tired from the very beginning of Sunday’s encounter and Petah Tikva embarrassed Tel Aviv’s lethargic defense time and again.AdvertisementPetah Tikva’s strike force of Omer Damari and Ben-Haim outpaced Hapoel’s slow defense and the hosts had their chances to take the lead.Damari was especially dangerous, coming close after a great solo effort in the 32nd minute before being denied by a well-timed Vincent Enyeama save in first half stoppage time.Petah Tikva would finally get the reward it deserved for its inspiring play seven minutes into the second half.Ben-Haim was brought down in the box by Omri Kende and the striker stepped up to convert the spot kick to give the hosts the breakthrough.Petah Tikva’s lead would last less than two minutes.Goalkeeper Rubi Levkovich came out poorly for Shay Abutbul’s corner and da Silva made the most of the mistake and headed in the equalizer.Substitute Ben Sahar had a golden chance to win the match in the 76th minute, but Levkovich got the better of him in their one on one encounter.Damari had a super opportunity to clinch the three points for the hosts six minutes later, but shot high above Enyeama’s goal with only the ’keeper to beat.A draw seemed to be on the cards and it would have been a fair result, however, Toama stepped up seconds before stoppage time and sent in an accurate free kick to claim a dramatic victory.On TV: Betar Jerusalem vs Bnei Sakhnin (live on Channel 1 at 9 p.m.)
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