Maccabi Tel Aviv found its way to a difficult 1-0 win against Ramat Hasharon last night in the first day of the playoffs, opening a 13-point gap in front of second-placed Maccabi Haifa, which faces Bnei Yehuda today.
As in all recent encounters with Ramat Hasharon, Maccabi couldn't find its rhythm and was outplayed for much of the game, leaving it until late to score. Gal Alberman played a long ball to the edge of the box, where Eliran Atar, undoubtedly the season's top player, tipped it toward Rade Prica for the Swede's fifth goal of the season.
While Macabbi's win was a tough one, Hapoel Tel Aviv's victory in Kiryat Shmona bordered on daylight robbery. Last year's champions have found their form in recent months and hadn't lost at home since Hapoel's last visit to the north in late October.
Kiryat Shmona was all over Hapoel's box throughout the game with 16 shots on target, compared with Hapoel's one - its winning goal. In one of Tel Aviv's rare ventures to the home team's half, Tal Ben Haim fed Shimon Harush, who crossed for young Eden Shrem to score his second of the season and first Hapoel goal from open play in 787 minutes. Two Hapoel players were sent off in the last 20 minutes, but Kiryat Shmona still couldn't equalize.
In the relegation playoffs, Hapoel Haifa continued its run of good results with a 3-0 win over Maccabi Netanya. Hapoel Acre surprised Ashdod 2-1, while Sakhnin also managed to secure three points - in Be'er Sheva with the same scoreline.