Yellow-and-blue embarrassed by Netanya

Maccabi Tel Aviv falls 3-0 at Bloomfield; Maccabi Haifa blanks Ashkelon; Betar victorious at home.

Maccabi Netanya striker Ahmed Saba 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kilger)
Maccabi Netanya striker Ahmed Saba 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kilger)
Maccabi Haifa mounted the pressure on Hapoel Tel Aviv by opening a fivepoint margin atop the Premier League standings on Saturday night, while Maccabi Tel Aviv’s season went from bad to worse with a 3-0 home defeat to Maccabi Netanya.
Haifa had little trouble dispatching the shambolic Hapoel Ashkelon at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, winning 3-0 to give itself some breathing space ahead of Hapoel Tel Aviv’s visit to Ashdod SC on Sunday night.
Haifa’s sixth win in its past seven matches was one of its easiest of the season. Defender Shay Mimon gave the hosts the lead after 18 minutes, pouncing on the rebound from Vladimir Dvalishvili’s shot, and the Greens were cruising at the break thanks to Tomer Hemed’s close range effort in the 42nd.
Hemed headed in his second goal of the evening five minutes into the second half and Ashkelon dropped to its eighth straight defeat.
“We were primed for this match like we are for every game and that is the key to our success,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “This was one of those matches we had to win and we did that while also playing some good soccer.”
It seemed as if Maccabi Tel Aviv’s season had hit rock-bottom with last week’s 4-0 defeat at Ironi Kiryat Shmona, but Saturday’s loss at the hands of Netanya was even more embarrassing.
So much was expected from the yellow- and-blue this season, but the disappointment from the team grows with every week, and after the sacking of Avi Nimni earlier this year, the fans were calling for the head of Moti Ivanir on Saturday.
Tel Aviv was once more desperately poor – especially considering its NIS 100 million-plus budget – and was outplayed by Netanya’s youngsters.
Nir Nahum scored the opener in the 21st minute after a solo effort on the edge of the area and Reuven Atar’s men clinched the win in the final 10 minutes through goals from Ahmed Saba (84th) and Kobi Dajani (89th).
“Maccabi looked bad for a second straight match and of course all of the responsibility is on the coach,” a furious Ivanir said. “Only the coach shoulders the blame for what happens on the field and I have to deal with it.”
Netanya, which was expected to fight against relegation at the start of the season, is unbeaten in its last seven matches and is in the mix for a place in the championship playoffs.
“I’m so proud of my players,” Atar said. “They deserve all the credit.
They are hungry and disciplined and we are now aiming to reach the topsix.”
An 89th-minute winner by substitute Moshe Ben-Lulu gave Betar Jerusalem a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa at Teddy Stadium on Saturday night, taking Roni Levy’s men 12 points clear of the relegation zone.
Betar had few chances on Saturday,but Ben-Lulu’s precious goal not only moved the team well clear of the bottom two, but also cut the gap from 10th-placed Hapoel Beersheba and a place in the mid-table playoffs to just three points.
“This is a very important win, especially because Hapoel Haifa is a very good team,” Levy said. “We’ve opened a significant gap on the bottom teams and if we claim two more wins from our final three matches we can think about making the mid-table playoffs.”
Elsewhere, Hapoel Acre moved into sixth position on Saturday, winning 2-0 at Hapoel Beersheba.
Maharan Radi gave the visitors the lead in the 38th minute and Zome Louis clinched the three points four minutes from time.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Ironi Kiryat Shmona drew 0-0 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts Bnei Yehuda on Sunday, with Hapoel Ramat Gan visiting Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.