Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Eran Zahavi scored his 100th Premier League goal in a 3-0 win at Hapoel Haifa.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Eran Zahavi’s 100th Premier League goal helped Maccabi Tel Aviv back to the summit of the standings on Saturday night, opening a two-point gap over Hapoel Beersheba which could only manage a goalless deadlock at Bnei Yehuda.
Zahavi netted Maccabi’s opener from the penalty spot in the 3-0 win over Hapoel Haifa at Haifa Stadium, the yellow- and-blue’s sixth victory from the past seven games.
After a far from impressive first half, Maccabi took the lead in the 50th minute through Zahavi’s penalty, with Haifa’s Bruno Pinheiro being penalized for blocking the ball with his hands in the box.
Matters got a whole lot more complicated for Haifa seconds later, with Dor Malul being sent off by referee Daniel Bar Natan after running towards him and showering him with obscenities following the penalty.
Nosa Igiebor made it 2-0 in the 68th minute before Avi Rikan completed the scoring nine minutes later, three days before Maccabi returns to Haifa Stadium to host Chelsea in Champions League action.
“We were not aggressive enough in the last third of the pitch in the first half, but in the second half we scored the penalty and then with an extra player we were able to score two more goals,” said Maccabi coach Slavisa Jokanovic. “There is always room to improve. We can be happy with the result and three points but we have a lot of work to do."
“We need to play better against Chelsea than we did today,” he added.
“The Champions League is the highest level of European football. Chelsea may not have played well this season but they are still Chelsea, we have to show our best and I expect that we will do this.”
Beersheba entered Saturday on the back of a five-match winning streak, its longest since 1996. However, it was unable to extend it, being held by Bnei Yehuda in Herzliya.
“It is disappointing to draw, but it isn’t the end of the world to draw after five straight wins,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar.
“There is no reason this result should stop our momentum. We need to return to winning ways next week.”
Maccabi Petah Tikva claimed its first win in seven matches on Saturday, beating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1-0 through Oz Peretz’s 51st-minute winner. Petah Tikva led the standings for the first month of the campaign after winning its first four matches, but had gone winless in its subsequent six contests. Kiryat Shmona entered the match with a league best ninegame unbeaten streak, but had only won three of those contests.
Hapoel Ra’anana climbed up to fourth place on Saturday, beating Maccabi Netanya 3-1 on the road in Reuven Atar’s first match at the helm.
Netanya’s Momodou Ceesay (43) canceled out Ben Vahaba’s (13) opener, but Barak Badash (71) and Eli Babayev (87) ensured the visitors left with all three points while Netanya remained in last place.
Also Saturday, Ran Itzhak’s 89th-minute goal gave Hapoel Kfar Saba a 1-0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin.
On Sunday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Acre, with Maccabi Haifa visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday.