Seventh heaven for Hapoel Tel Aviv

Seventh heaven for Hapoe

shechter hapoel tel aviv 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
shechter hapoel tel aviv 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Although the decision to expand the Israeli Premier League might well produce a hatful of goals this season, the gulf in class between the top and bottom ends of the league bordered on the embarrassing on Saturday afternoon, as Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa dished out devastating defeats, with the Reds running riot in a 7-1 win against Hapoel Petah Tikva, and the Greens making it 10 league wins from 10 with a 4-1 victory at home to Ahi Nazareth. Elsewhere, Maccabi Petah Tikva coach Roni Levy quit after his team lost 2-1 at home to Bnei Sakhnin, despite taking an early lead. Also Saturday, Betar Jerusalem failed to recover from its heavy defeat against Maccabi Netanya a fortnight ago, as Oshri Gita's late strike cancelled out Toto Tamuz's opener to earn Hapoel Acre a 1-1 draw at Teddy Stadium. The draw marked Acre's sixth game on the spin without defeat, and moved Yaron Hochenboim's men up to 11th place. Netanya, meanwhile, failed to pick up where it left off against Betar, going down to an Idan Shriki goal at home to Ashdod, while first-half goals from George Amsis and Pedro Galvan gave Bnei Yehuda a 2-0 win at Hapoel Ramat Gan to keep up the pressure on the top two. Hapoel Tel Aviv 7, Hapoel Petah Tikva 1 Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman hailed his players for "not taking their foot off the gas for one moment," but the astonishing thing was that, in truth, although the hosts' passing was slick, they didn't really appear to break sweat. Itai Shechter got the home side off to a flying start in the third minute, rolling the ball into the bottom corner after collecting Gil Vermut's pass on the edge of the box. The game could have gone much differently had Elnatan Salami made the most of a glorious chance 10 minutes later, but the Petah Tikva striker blazed over with only Vincent Enyeama to beat, and alas, it was the hosts who soon found the net again. Nemanja Vucicevic burst forward from midfield and found Vermut, whose curler was saved by Petah Tikva 'keeper Tzlil Hatouka before Shechter slammed home the rebound.  Vermut and Shechter combined once again four minutes before the interval to carve out the third. The midfield maestro robbed Ii'ad Khotba and knocked the ball through to Shechter, who beat Hatouka at his near post to complete a first-half hat-trick. Defender Dedi Ben-Dayan got the fourth for Tel Aviv midway through the second half, and moments later, Bibras Natcho set up Maharan Lala to fire in his first marker of the season. Just when Salami appeared to have restored a tiny amount of respectability to the score-line by stroking the ball in 10 minutes from time, incredibly, things then actually got even worse for the visitors. First, Eran Zehavi ran on to Shechter's pass and expertly hooked the ball in while on the deck. And then, Vermut deservedly got the seventh for Hapoel to round out the scoring. Maccabi Haifa 4, Ahi Nazareth 1 It truly was men against boys at Kiryat Eliezer on Saturday afternoon. Although few could argue with Nazareth coach Eli Mahpud's assessment that his team had given a "catastrophic performance," it was difficult to see what his players could have done to prevent Haifa from moving to within one victory of equaling the record it jointly holds with Maccabi Tel Aviv for the longest league winning streak to start a season. Nazareth 'keeper Gil Ofek, making his league debut against the team he grew up with, was called into action as early as the first minute to beat out Vladimir Dvalishvili's cross-cum-shot, but he was soon picking the ball out of the net, as Yaniv Katan converted a third-minute penalty after Lior Rafaelov was scythed down by Togolese defender Eric Akoto. Fifteen minutes later, it was 2-0. Rafaelov left Adham Hadiya for dead down the left and cut the ball back to Dvalishvili to blast in. It was then Shlomi Arbeitman's turn to get on the scoresheet, heading home Dvalishvili's hooked cross eight minutes before the break to notch his 10th goal of the season and enter the top 100 all-time top-flight scorers chart with 57 - a remarkable achievement for the 24-year-old. Biram Kiyal got the fourth for the Greens six minutes after the break, and although Luhav Kiyal smashed in a half-volley five minutes from time, it was much too little, much too late for the away side.