Maccabi Tel Aviv's Eran Zahavi 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Eran Zahavi needed less than two minutes to ensure Maccabi Tel Aviv opened a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League standings on Sunday night, scoring the yellow and blue’s winner in the 1-0 victory over Hapoel Ramat Hasharon after coming on as a substitute at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Maccabi entered the match as a massive favorite after picking up 13 out of a possible 15 points without conceding a goal, while Ramat Hasharon had lost all five of its matches by a combined goal difference of 2-14.
However, rock-bottom Ramat Hasharon contained Maccabi during the first half, forcing Tel Aviv coach Paulo Sousa to bring on his ace at halftime.
Despite being without the injured Barak Itzhaki and Dor Micha, Sousa still decided to leave Zahavi and Israel teammate Shiran Yeini on the bench. However, desperately needing a change after the disappointing first 45 minutes, Sousa sent Zahavi onto the pitch in place of Yoav Ziv and the midfielder rewarded him with a goal almost immediately.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Tal Ben-Haim laid the ball off for the surging Zahavi and he coolly chipped goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan to give Maccabi all three points, with the yellowand- blue extending its clean sheet streak to six matches.
“I’m happy that I’m in good form and can help the team to win,” said Zahavi, who expected the side to struggle at Ramat Gan where it was hosting the match due to the resurfacing of the pitch at Bloomfield Stadium.
“We didn’t play our soccer in the first half, but we managed to collect three important points.”
On Monday night, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium in a mouth-watering showdown between the bitter rivals. It will be the first time Beitar owner Eli Tabib will come up against the club he previously controlled and almost 30,000 fans are expected to fill the stadium.