Maccabi Tel Aviv's Eran Zahavi celebrates a goal.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Eran Zahavi extended his incredible scoring run on Saturday to lead Maccabi Tel Aviv to a 3-1 win at Hapoel Petah Tikva. The two-time defending Premier League champion closed to within two points of the summit after title rivals Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Beersheba both slipped up.
Zahavi scored in his 16th straight league match, netting a brace to take his overall tally over that stretch to 24 goals, 15 of them this season.
Shahar Hirsch gave Petah Tikva a stunning lead after less than six minutes, but Maharan Radi blasted in the equalizer from the edge of the box in the 26th minute before Zahavi clinched all three points.
The midfielder gave Maccabi the lead on the stroke of halftime and secured the victory from the penalty spot in the 79th minute.
After coming last season within one goal of Nissim Elmalich’s record of 30 goals in a season set in the 1954/55 campaign, Zahavi is already halfway to the record this term with 23 matches still to play.
“My teammates help me out in every match and that is why I can score,” said Zahavi, who was connected last week with a move to English Premier League club Tottenham during the upcoming January transfer window. “There’s no need to talk about me all the time. My friends deserve credit and you should stop asking me why I keep scoring.”
Maccabi coach Pako Ayestaran said he would do whatever it takes to convince Zahavi to stay until the end of the season, but the midfielder insisted that would not be necessary.
“I have a five year contract, so he really doesn’t have such a difficult job,” said Zahavi.
Kiryat Shmona remains in first place, but dropped two important points after squandering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Hapoel Acre. The hosts seemed to be cruising to the win after Ofir Mizrahi (15) and a sensational David Manga (48) strike gave them a 2-0 cushion. However, Hamdi Salihi’s (59) header handed Acre a lifeline and Raz Stein equalized in the 75th minute with a stunning shot from 20 meters out.
“The game looked over and we felt too comfortable and that is a shame,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar. “This hurts, but we are still in first place.”
Beersheba fell to third place after suffering its second defeat of the season, losing 2-0 at Bnei Sakhnin. Firas Mugrabi gave Sakhnin a deserved lead in the 24th minute from the penalty spot, with Mohammad Ghadir clinching the victory in coach Eli Cohen’s first match at the helm in the 60th minute.
Hapoel Tel Aviv is just three points off the relegation zone after dropping to its fourth straight loss on Saturday. Hapoel was beaten 2-1 by Maccabi Petah Tikva despite taking the lead through Lucas Sasha three minutes into the second half.
Gidi Kanyuk equalized in the 62nd minute after his shot took a deflection and Oz Peretz gave Petah Tikva all three points 12 minutes later, making the most of Mohammed Abu Alhija’s slip on the wet surface.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya drew 0-0 with Ashdod SC.
On Sunday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Maccabi Haifa, with Hapoel Ra’anana visiting Beitar Jerusalem on Monday.