Maccabi Tel Aviv rallied past Premier League table leader F.C. Ashdod to go level on points on Saturday, while Maccabi Haifa delivered new coach Reuven Atar his first win of the season with a victory over shorthanded Hapoel Ramat Gan.

In other league matches last night, Hapoel Acre knocked off host Maccabi Netanya 3-1 to stay in fourth, while Ramat Hasharon remained in fifth with a 2-0 blanking of visiting Hapoel Haifa. Bnei Sakhnin was held at home to a 2-2 draw by Bnei Yehuda.

The rise of Kiryat Shmona to the championship last season seems to be inspiring the mid-level clubs like Ashdod, Acre and Ramat Hasharon. Maccabi Tel Aviv seemed determined to put behind its lost decade and dominate this season, and Dor Micha sent that message with a 19th minute goal. Yet, Ashdod did not back down as Dimitar Makriev equalized in the 52nd minute. Still, Tel Aviv prevailed this time thanks to the winning goal three minute later by Welsh international Robert Earnshaw.

Over in Haifa, struggling coach Atar got a break yesterday when Hapoel Ramat Gan's Israel Zaguri gave a hard kick into Liroy Zhairi in the 37th minute. The referee handed a red card to Zaguri, who perhaps thought that Haifa has been so anemic this season that it could not even win with a personnel advantage on the pitch.

Haifa proved him wrong. Striker Dino Ndlovu scored Maccabi Haifa's first goal seven minutes later, while Idan Vered added an insurance goal in injury time at the end of the second half off a wonderful pass from Avihai Yadin.

Like Ashdod, Acre and Ramat Hasharon have played above their normal level this season. Yesterday, they both faced weaker opponents and managed to avoid letdowns.