Tal Ben-Haim (right) and Eran Zahavi.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Three-time defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv climbed to the top of the Premier League standings for the first time this season on Saturday, while Maccabi Haifa finally scored its first goal of the campaign on the way to its debut win.
Maccabi Tel Aviv thrashed Hapoel Acre 5-0 at Bloomfield Stadium and leapfrogged previous leader Maccabi Petah Tikva, which was beaten 5-2 at Hapoel Beersheba.
After yet again being outplayed in the Champions League, this time by Dynamo Kiev, a home match against Hapoel Acre was the perfect remedy for Maccabi.
The yellow-and-blue was gifted the lead by Acre defender Boris Kopitovic’s own-goal after 62 seconds, but the floodgates wouldn’t open until the second half.
A splendid Barak Itzhaki (67) goal doubled the advantage, before Eran Zahavi snapped a fivematch scoreless streak three minutes later.
After scoring seven goals in 11 matches over all competitions in August, Zahavi failed to find the back of the net in September.
However, he got October off to a fast start after also netting his second goal of the night in the 85th minute, two minutes after forward Tal Ben- Haim scored Maccabi’s fourth.
“We had difficulty at the beginning, but in the second half we found more gaps and scored some good goals,” said Maccabi coach Slavisa Jokanovic.
After opening the season with four straight wins, Petah Tikva dropped to its second straight loss on Saturday, falling 5-2 to a lethal Beersheba.
With Maor Buzaglo and Ben Sahar both out injured, Elyaniv Barda and Anthony Nwakaeme were handed just their second start of the season and they responded with a brace each. Nwakaeme’s fifth-minute opener was canceled out by Mohammed Kalibat (21), but Barda’s goals (29, 35) put Beersheba in the driving seat once more. Dor Hugi (72) handed Petah Tikva a lifeline after Kalibat had missed a penalty five minutes earlier, but Nwakaeme (88) and Maharan Radi (93) secured the three points before Beersheba’s Nigerian midfielder John Ogu proposed to his girlfriend on the pitch after the final whistle.
She said yes.
After becoming the first team in 19 years to fail to find the back of the net in the first five matches of the season, Haifa finally scored after 527 barren minutes on Saturday. Eliran Atar netted from the penalty spot in the 77th minute before Hen Ezra made it 2-0 against Hapoel Ra’anana, clinching Haifa’s first victory of the campaign in stoppage time.
“We know this is only the beginning and we need to display continuity now,” said Haifa’s relieved coach Roni Levy.
Earlier Saturday, Maccabi Netanya also registered its first win of the season thanks to Hamza Barry’s spectacular 90th-minute winner. The Gambian received the ball in the center of the field and gave goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba no chance with his shot from 25 meters out.
Amir Agajev had given Bnei Yehuda a 13th-minute lead, but Gael Margulies equalized in the 62nd minute before Barry finally gave Netanya its first victory.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona snapped a three-match winless streak with an emphatic 4-1 triumph at Hapoel Haifa.
Eden Shamir (41, 57), Ahmed Abed (45) and Ofir Mizrahi (90) scored for Kiryat Shmona, with Mahara Lala (69) netting for Haifa.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Kfar Saba drew 1-1 at Levita Stadium. Dudu Biton (32) gave Tel Aviv the lead before Hugo Lopez (62) equalized for the hosts.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem visits Bnei Sakhnin at Doha Stadium.