Local Soccer: Haifa returns to top spot with convincing 3-0 win in Ashdod

Arbeitman, Rafaelov and Boccoli all score as Elisha Levy's side closes in on league title.

Maccabi Haifa sad 298 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa sad 298
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa returned to the top of the Premier League standings on Monday night with one of its easiest victories on the season. As seems to be the case in many of its matches this campaign, Haifa was far from impressive in its 3-0 win at Ashdod SC, but still did more than enough to claim all three points to keep it in the driving seat for the league title, with only eight matches left to play in the season. Haifa, which plays five of its final eight games at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, has now opened a two-point margin over second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv, with Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya a further four points back. "We knew we had to win and we gave our all," said man-of-the-match Gustavo Boccoli, who set-up the first two goals and scored the third. "The title race will be tight until the very end and we're not going to give up." Maccabi coach Elisha Levy was delighted with his team's performance. "We gave the ball away a lot in the first half, but played much better after the interval," Levy said. "We've improved in recent weeks and I think tonight's victory was an important landmark. I hope we can go all the way and remain in first position." Ashdod's naïve defense, which has conceded more goals than any other side in the league this season, gave Haifa far too much space and the visitors practically strolled to the victory. "Our play in the second half was a disgrace," Ashdod coach Yossi Mizrahi said. "I'm not disappointed with the defeat, but rather with the manner of it." Shlomi Arbeitman scored the opener in the 19th minute with an excellent left-footed shot into the bottom right corner, and with the hosts failing to even threaten the Maccabi goal, Haifa had no trouble in maintaining its lead until the interval. The second half was no different to the first and Haifa soon clinched the win. In the 63rd minute, Boccoli crossed the ball perfectly for substitute Lior Rafaelov to head in the second goal of the match. And eight minutes later the Brazilian midfielder struck a fantastic shot from 20 meters out to cap another professional performance by Haifa.