LOCAL SOCCER: Haifa edges Betar to remain on top

Premier League matchday 3 saw 15,000 fans pack Teddy – including some 3,000 Haifa supporters.

Defending champ Maccabi Haifa edged Betar Jerusalem 1-0 on a Michael Zandberg goal in the first minute of the second half to remain undefeated in the Premier League at Teddy Stadium on Sunday night. The final fixture of Premier League matchday 3 saw 15,000 fans pack Teddy including some 3,000 Haifa supporters. Betar's new signing Omri Afek was expected to make his debut at the right back position, but sat on the bench after he failed to pass a fitness test before the game. The game started at a fast pace with many aggressive tackles. Idan Malihi anchored the midfield elegantly and initiated some impressive attacks for the yellow-and-black. But the home team's forwards were inaccurate and unable to create good chances. Maccabi Haifa drew first blood in the first minute of the second half, when prolific striker Roberto Colautti found Zandberg in the box, who fired in from close range to make it 1-0. The visitors almost doubled their lead in the 49th minute with a fierce header by Brazilian Gustavo Boccoli, but goalkeeper Itzik Kornfein used his instincts to palm the ball away and defender Eliran Denin cleared the ball in bizarre fashion, off both the posts of his own goal. Betar created sporadic chances of its own with Jeff Tottuanah displaying some incisive passing in midfield. Haifa defender Arik Benado handled the ball in his penalty area in the 71st minute, but referee Asaf Keinan turned down the hosts' appeals for a penalty. The champions held on quite easily in the end and won the game, which turned out to be a rather disappointing fixture, which produced just one goal and very few scoring chances on both sides. Haifa coach Roni Levi was pleased with his charges' play. "We played very well and gave a good show to our dedicated fans. I am happy we played without any lapses in our concentration." Betar 'keeper Kornfein believes that his team must still get better. "We still have to make more additions to our squad to challenge the top teams of the league." After just three games, Haifa already has a threepoint lead over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Sakhnin's coach resigns In other Premier League news, Bnei Sakhnin's coach Momi Zafran handed in his resignation following the team's horrible start to the season. Sakhnin is still pointless after losing all three games this season. Zafran guided the team when to its first season ever in the Premier League in 2002/03 and also saved the team from relegation last season in a nail-biting finish. Club chairman Mazen Ganaim, who has yet to accept Zafran's resignation, told reporters Sunday night, "I was very surprised by Momi's move because he had the board's confidence. The team was starting to look better and played well in the last game, despite the loss."