Maccabi Haifa 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A Thembinkosi Fanteni brace helped Maccabi Haifa to a 3-2 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday night at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
The victory took Haifa back to the top of the standings and was further proof that the team is a true title contender.
Tel Aviv now finds itself eight points behind Haifa and Maccabi Netanya and its championship hopes are quickly fading.
Fanteni scored Haifa's first goal after a mere 40 seconds and the side was cruising when the South African international found the net for the second time of the match in the 55th minute to give his team a 3-0 lead.
Despite the scoreline, Tel Aviv continued to push forward and two goals in four minutes, the first by Yannick Kamanan and the second by Maor Buzaglo, gave Ran Ben-Shimon's team some hope.
Haifa would hold on, though, and Elisha Levy's side has now won five of its first seven matches of the season.
"We're improving with every match we play and we're playing good and positive soccer," Levy said.
"This was one of the strangest matches I've ever seen," Ben-Shimon said.
"We conceded when we played well and scored when we didn't. We could have equalized and we should have done so."
For Haifa's first Yaniv Katan raced down the left flank and crossed the ball perfectly for the in coming Fanteni, who easily tucked the ball under Dragoslav Jevric.
Haifa pressured the visitors in their half and it took Tel Aviv 15 minutes to find its footing.
In the 17th minute, Buzaglo registered the yellow-and-blue's first chance of the match, shaving the crossbar with his free-kick from 20 meters out.
Just 90 seconds after the break Biram Kiyal surprised the defense with a cross from the right and Lior Rafaelov headed the ball past a dozy Jevric.
In the 55th minute the match seemed to be over.
Dulee Johnson missed at one end and Katan sent Fanteni a well-measured pass at the other end and the South African easily scored into the empty net.
The heavens opened soon after and a few minutes of complacency almost cost the hosts dearly.
Just four minutes later the visitors closed to within one goal.
Kamanan's looping header from the edge of the box should have never found its way into the back of the net in the 64th minute, but Edri was placed poorly and Tel Aviv had a lifeline.
Just four minutes later the visitors closed to within one goal. Buzaglo blasted the ball in from 10 meters out and Ben-Shimon's team was back in the match.
Tel Aviv continued to pressure the hosts in the closing minutes of the encounter, but Haifa regained its composure and in the end held on to the win quite comfortably.