Hapoel’s dominant derby run continues

Maccabi winless in last seven meetings after falling 1-0 at Bloomfield.

311_Hapoel TA at Bloomfield (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Hapoel TA at Bloomfield
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Any argument over the identity of the best team in Tel Aviv was brought to an end on Saturday night.
Forget the early season form, Hapoel Tel Aviv remains the team to beat in the Premier League after defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday in a match which was far more one-sided than the final score indicates.
Hapoel dominated the proceedings after taking the lead in the third minute through Eran Zehavi and should have scored many more. However, the Red fans won’t care one bit, with the reigning league and cup double holder extending its unbeaten run against the yellow-and-blue to seven encounters, dating back to March 2008.
“I’m thrilled that we were able to win this derby,” said Zehavi. “We played as a team and I don’t think you can single out any one player as the man of the match.”
Maccabi entered the game after winning four of its first five matches, but despite claiming just two of five encounters, Eli Gutman’s team was clearly the better side on Saturday, and will enter Wednesday’s Champions League match at Schalke 04 brimming with confidence.
It took Hapoel less than three minutes to make the breakthrough.
Toto Tamuz surged forward and Zehavi didn’t waste his perfectly judged pass, rounding ’keeper Liran Strauber before smashing in the opener.
The hosts dictated the first half and should have increased their lead before the break.
Zehavi, Itai Shechter and Douglas da Silva all had opportunities before Hapoel ’keeper Vincent Enyeama came up with an instinctive save in the 23rd minute to deny Yoav Ziv’s deflected shot.
Gili Vermut’s superb effort from outside the box five minutes later was saved by a Strauber leap and Hapoel would lead by just a single goal at the break after Tamuz’s shot on the stroke of halftime went just wide.
Hapoel remained in complete control at the start of the second half, but a combination of misfortune and a lack of cutting edge meant that the second goal kept eluding the Reds.
Zehavi fired a bullet from over 20 meters out 10 minutes into the second half, hitting the underside of the crossbar but landing on the wrong side of the goal line.
It would make little difference as Maccabi never really came close to equalizing and Hapoel fans remained at Bloomfield long after the final whistle to celebrate another sweet victory.
Meanwhile, Yaniv Katan made a triumphant return from injury on Saturday, scoring a 90th minute penalty to give Maccabi Haifa a 2-1 victory at Bnei Sakhnin.
Muhammed Zbedat gave Sakhnin a shock lead in the 33rd minute, but young striker Shlomi Azulai scored his third goal in two matches to equalize three minutes later, setting up a dramatic finish to the match.
Katan came on as a substitute at halftime, and just when it seemed Haifa might have to settle for a second straight draw, he stepped up to slot in a late winner from the penalty spot.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona ensured itself at least one more week atop the Premier League standings on Saturday, thrashing Hapoel Haifa 4-1 on the road.
Wiyam Amashe continued his excellent early season form with two more goals (20, 37), with William Njovu (37) and Ori Shitrit (85) also scoring for Kiryat Shmona, which has won five of its first six matches.
Hapoel Petah Tikva coach Eli Mahpud quit on Saturday after seeing his team fall to a 4-1 defeat to arch-rival Maccabi Petah Tikva at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Hapoel’s dysfunctional management announced on Thursday that the team will not show up for the match after the Israel Football Association High Court rejected the club’s request to postpone the suspension of midfielder Jonathan Assous.
However, as expected, Hapoel turned up with its first team, only to be embarrassed by its bitter rival.
Omer Golan (3, 5), who was sent off 10 minutes from time, scored twice within the first five minutes and Michael Zandberg (37) and Omer Damari (45) clinched the win even before the halftime whistle.
Hapoel, which had goalkeeper Snir Dori sent off in the 17th minute, scored through Dudu Biton in the 87th.
Also Saturday, Ahmed Saba scored a 93rd minute winner to give Maccabi Netanya a 1-0 victory at Hapoel Ramat Gan, while Hapoel Ashkelon was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Hapoel Acre.