Soccer: Mac Haifa marches on with emphatic win at Acre

Soccer Maccabi Haifa ma

standings 2010Jan 3 (photo credit: )
standings 2010Jan 3
(photo credit: )
With its fifth clean sheet in a row and its 15th win from 16 games, Maccabi Haifa continued its march toward retaining the league championship on Saturday afternoon, opening up an 11-point lead at the top with an emphatic 3-0 road victory at Hapoel Acre. In other action from the start of the second round of league games, Maccabi Tel Aviv failed to build on last week's win against Betar as Avi Nimni's men were held to a goalless draw against Bnei Sakhnin. Although the match was a home game for the Northerners, the Israel Football Association, in its infinite wisdom, absurdly decided move it to the Ramat Gan National Stadium due to the police closure of Sakhnin's Doha Stadium following the crowd trouble in last week's game against Ahi Nazareth. Elsewhere, a late strike from Bulgarian Dimitar Makriev - his second of the game - gave Ashdod a 3-2 win at Bnei Yehuda, while Hapoel Beersheba snatched a late 2-2 draw at Hapoel Ra'anana. Meanwhile, it was misery for John Gregory as Ahi Nazareth went back to the bottom after losing 3-0 on the road at Hapoel Petah Tikva, courtesy of goals by Elnatan Salami, Osman Bashiru and Udi Hanoun. Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Netanya played out a goalless draw. Hapoel Acre 0, Maccabi Haifa 3 Three goals in 11 minutes at the end of the second half made any hope Acre had of stopping Haifa nothing more than a pipe dream and ruined any chances of the game not turning into yet another one-sided victory for the champions. After going close through Dekel Keinan and Vladimir Dvalishvili, the Greens finally got the opening goal they deserved on 34 minutes - and some goal it was, too. Lior Rafaelov clipped in a cross to the edge of the box, where Eyal Golasa, albeit inadvertently, laid the ball off to Yaniv Katan, who fired a ferocious half-volley into the top corner. Five minutes before the break, Rafaelov found Peter Masilela out wide, and the South African fullback's pinpoint cross was headed home by Vladimir Dvalishvili for his eighth goal of the season. Moments later, the Georgian striker was celebrating his ninth of the campaign. Katan found Mohammed Ghadir on the right, and the youngster drilled ball into the box, where Dvalishvili capitalized on Itzik Cohen's blunder to poke the ball in past Dudu Goresh. At the start of second half, Geva Barkai prevented a Dvalishvili hat-trick, clearing off the line after the Georgian had chipped the ball over Goresh from Katan's defense-splitting pass. Goresh's opposite number, Nir Davidovich, was then called into action at the other end, saving smartly to keep out Cohen's close-range strike. Ghadir should then have got the fourth for Haifa after he was put through by Golasa. However, after trying to roll the ball past Goresh with the underside of his boot, the showboating failed to pay off and the Acre 'keeper easily gathered. In the closing stages, Dvalishvili had another chance to complete his hat-trick from Masilela's pass, but he went for power rather than placement and shot straight at the busy Goresh. Acre coach Yaron Hochenboim said that although he was "quite satisfied" with his team's start to the game, ultimately, it was one of his side's "weakest performances." "They [Maccabi Haifa] just know very well how to punish every mistake," he said. Ever the perfectionist, Haifa coach Elisha Levy was displeased with his players "taking their foot off the gas" in the second half, insisting, "That's something we must improve on."