Arbeitman bags a hat-trick as Haifa continues title charge

Maccabi TA moves up to second with a 2-0 win at home to Hapoel Ra’anana; Bnei Sakhnin win 1-0 to basement boys Hapoel Acre.

Maccabi Haifa game last week (photo credit: maccabi haifa website)
Maccabi Haifa game last week
(photo credit: maccabi haifa website)
The seemingly unstoppable Maccabi Haifa made it 19 wins from 21 league games on Saturday afternoon with a comfortable 4-1 victory at home to Hapoel Beersheba, courtesy of a hat-trick from Shlomi Arbeitman.
The Greens boast the best league record in Europe, making Haifa coach Elisha Levy’s post-match assertion that his team was going in the “right direction” seem like the understatement of the year.
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv moved up to second with a 2-0 win at home to Hapoel Ra’anana, thanks to strikes from Yossi Shivhon and Ilya Yavruyan, while Betar Jerusalem and Bnei Yehuda played out a disappointing goalless draw in front of just 3,000 supporters at Bloomfield Stadium.
Also Saturday, a second-half goal from Liran Cohen gave Bnei Sakhnin a 1-0 win at home to basement boys Hapoel Acre.
And Shai Haddad earned Hapoel Ramat Gan a victory by the same scoreline at John Gregory’s Ahi Nazareth.
Meanwhile, an equalizer by South African Bevan Fransman rescued a point for Maccabi Netanya in an entertaining 2-2 draw at home to Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Maccabi Haifa 4, Hapoel Beersheba 1
 After yet another Maccabi Haifa win, Levy urged his team not to be “complacent,” saying Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv would “fight until the death.”
They certainly have one hell of a fight on their hands if they are to get anyway near the reigning champions, who, quite simply, look unstoppable.
The table-toppers took the lead in the 19th minute after Vladimir Dvalishvili laid the ball off to Yaniv Katan who played a pinpoint through-pass right into Arbeitman’s path.
Although the striker’s shot was true, Beersheba ‘keeper Tvrtko Kale, perhaps thinking the ball was heading wide, made absolutely no attempt to make a save, and it nestled into the corner.
Arbeitman doubled his tally ten minutes before the break. Another precise Katan pass put the league’s top marksman through on goal, and this time he gave Kale no chance, hammering the ball home.
And the same two players combined for Arbeitman’s hat-trick at the start of the second period. Dvalishvili sent Katan down the left, and his cross was prodded in by the 24-year-old.
Beersheba pulled one back on 59 minutes when captain Maor Melikson converted a penalty after he was upended by Dekel Keinan inside the box. The goal was the first conceded by Haifa ‘keeper Nir Davidovich in an amazing 954 minutes.
Kale made a terrific save to prevent Arbeitman from getting a fourth 15 minutes from time after Mohammed Ghadir’s deft touch had set up the Haifa hit-man.
And Masilila scored his first goal of the season to finally seal the win four minutes from time, getting on the end of Ali Ottman’s surging run and firing the ball into the corner from close-range.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 2, Hapoel Ra’anana 0
With his team sitting pretty in second place after its fifth win on the spin, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Avi Nimni played down the chances of posing a challenge to league leader Maccabi Haifa, but maintained that second place and European qualification had always been a realistic goal.
“We’re looking forward all the time,” he said. “We set targets before the season and second seemed realistic, we want get into Europe.”
The Maccabi coach said his side “is not even part of the question of being involved in the title race,” since it only depended on Maccabi Haifa and whether or not the Greens kept on winning.
Tel Aviv took the lead against the struggling Ra’anana in the sixth minute. Emmanuel Mayuka steamed forward and slotted in Guillermo Yisraelevich, and although the midfielder was tackled, the ball broke to Ilya Yavruyan who stabbed it home.
The hosts doubled their advantage six minutes before the break.
A sliding Roni Gafni did brilliantly to keep the ball in play on the by-line before playing it into the path of Yossi Shivhon, who finished with aplomb.