Local Soccer: Mac Haifa returns to form by spanking Hap PT

Elisha Levy’s men prove their doubters wrong with a comfortable 3-0 victory.

It took just 45 seconds of Sunday’s 3-0 win over Hapoel Petah Tikva for Maccabi Haifa to wipe away memories of what had been a terrible week for the club.
Yaniv Katan’s super strike from the edge of the area snuck inside Petah Tikva goalkeeper Yossi Shekel’s right hand post, immediately creating a renewed sense of calm and supremacy at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Two defeats in a row – to Bnei Sakhnin in the league last week and Hapoel Ramat Gan in the cup on Wednesday – had many pundits asking questions about the real strength of this Haifa side.
But Elisha Levy’s men proved their doubters wrong with a consummate performance against Eli Mahpud’s team, which hadn’t lost since January 9.
Lior Rafaelov and Shlomi Arbeitman both scored and terrorized their opponents with skill and vigor throughout the encounter.
The result stretched Maccabi’s lead over Hapoel Tel Aviv at the top of the standings back to eight points, but the championship is still far from secured, with each team’s points total to be halved ahead of the final round of games.
“As always, the most important thing is to win,” said Haifa coach Levy. “We want to carry on like this all the way to the end.”
The omens hadn’t been good for Petah Tikva on Sunday – the last time it won at Maccabi Haifa was in January 2005.
And all the best chance fell to the boys in green, such as when defender Eyal Meshumar headed just over the bar 18 minutes in.
Soon it was 2-0, as this year’s goal machine doubled Haifa’s lead with his 25th tally of the season.
Arbeitman flicked the ball up with his right foot and guided it home onthe half volley with his left, after receiving a cross into thesix-yard box from strike partner Vladimir Dvalishvili.
Thesecond half saw Haifa stamp its authority on the game, and only thegoal post prevented Arbeitman from getting his second with his head sixminutes after the restart.
Rafaelov secured the victory lessthan 60 seconds later, turning Petah Tikva midfielder Sagiv Coheninside out with a darting run towards the goal from the left side ofthe penalty area before smashing the ball way past Shekel.