Maccabi Tel Aviv, Beersheba remain hot on K8’s heels

Zahavi leads yellow-and-blue while Beersheba outplays Netanya to take advantage of Kiryat Shmona slip-up

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Eran Zahavi (photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Eran Zahavi
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba closed the gap on Ironi Kiryat Shmona with emphatic wins on Saturday night after the league-leader dropped points at Hapoel Ra’anana earlier in the day.
Maccabi beat Hapoel Haifa 3-0 in Netanya behind two more goals from Eran Zahavi, while Beersheba thrashed Maccabi Netanya 4-0 at Vasermil Stadium.
Kiryat Shmona was held to a 0-0 draw by Ra’anana, with coach Barak Bachar admitting his side scarcely deserved a point.
“This was one of our worst games of the season,” said Bachar, whose team nevertheless extended its unbeaten start to the campaign to 10 matches. “The result flatters us as Ra’anana was a lot better.”
Zahavi has scored in the past 13 league games in which he has played stretching back to last season, taking his overall tally over that period to 20 goals.
Zahavi broke the deadlock following a swift team move six minutes from the halftime interval before doubling the yellow-and-blue’s advantage in the 61st minute with a solo effort on the edge of the box. The midfielder has scored 11 goals in eight matches this season without taking into account his strike in the abandoned Tel Aviv derby against Hapoel.
Eden Ben-Basat capped Saturday’s victory in the 74th minute and Maccabi immediately bounced back from last week’s 2-1 defeat at Kiryat Shmona despite having to host the match away from Bloomfield Stadium due to its fans’ involvement in the derby debacle.
“Clearly it is fun to score but the most important thing is that we got back to winning ways,” said Zahavi.
Maccabi remained in third place, but closed to within four points of Kiryat Shmona, while Beersheba moved to within just three points of the summit with its easy triumph over Netanya. The hosts all but secured the win by the 15th minute thanks to goals from Shlomi Arbeitman (10) and William Soares (15), with John Ogu (58) and Maor Buzaglo (73) wrapping up the rout in the second half.
“This was an emphatic victory and it was very important for us to return to winning ways,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy, whose side lost 3-2 to Hapoel Tel Aviv last weekend, but can climb up to first place on Tuesday should it beat Kiryat Shmona on the road.
Only four points separate the bottom 10 teams in the league after Hapoel Petah Tikva beat Bnei Sakhnin 2-1 on Saturday and Ashdod SC overcame Hapoel Acre 1-0.
An own goal by goalkeeper Mahmud Kandil (56) and a strike by Shahar Hirsch (71) gave Petah Tikva all three points, with Ali Osman (80) scoring a consolation goal for Sakhnin.
Murad Abu Anza netted the only goal of the match in Acre 10 minutes from the final whistle.
On Sunday, the struggling Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv at Sammy Ofer Stadium. Yossi Benayoun is set to return to Haifa’s starting lineup and make just his third league appearance of the season for the Greens, who have lost five of their past six matches.
Beitar Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday.