Maccabi Tel Aviv players Maharan Radi (left), Eliran Atar and Eran Zahavi
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Eran Zahavi, right, celebrating a goal in typical style together with teamates Maharan Radi, left, and Eliran Atar. Photo by Seffi Magriso
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Maccabi Tel Aviv stands seven points clear of Hapoel Be’er Sheva at the top of the Premier League table following an emphatic 5-0 win over Hapoel Acre yesterday.

Eran Zahavi was again the hero for the defending champion, scoring twice in the first half at Bloomfield Stadium. Dor Micha added the third in the 57th minute, Rade Prica made it four 10 minutes later and Gal Alberman rounded off the result close to fulltime for the defending champion’s fifth successive Premier League victory.

Zahavi’s opener in the 24th minute was a peach, as the striker picked up a beautiful pass from Micha, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home his eighth goal of the season.

He added a second from the penalty spot soon before the break.

It was one-way traffic in the second period, with the only question being how many times the hosts would penetrate the visitors’ porous defense, which lived up to its name by giving Maccabi’s forwards acres of space.

As for poor Acre, its only attack of note ended with the referee awarding the team a questionable penalty when Eitan Tibi handled at the edge of the penalty box, only for the decision to overruled by the fourth official. It just wasn’t their day.

But for Maccabi’s crosstown rival Hapoel, it was an even worse day. Following last week’s discouraging 1-0 defeat to Maccabi on a questionable penalty decision, Ran Ben-Shimon’s charges got bogged down on an uninviting Doha Stadium pitch, where they were thoroughly outplayed by Bnei Sakhnin, which deservedly won 4-0.

Hapoel’s goalkeeper Boris Klaiman was responsible for the opener, passing the ball straight to a thankful Ahmed Kasoum, who set up Firas Mugrabi to tap the ball home. Hapoel looked shell-shocked, and it was no surprise when Mohammed Kalibat doubled the lead from a 25-meter pile driver just before halftime, after he was given far too much space by Hapoel’s sluggish defense.

Mohammad Ghadir put the result beyond doubt on the hour, as he was allowed to run half the field practically unchallenged before firing home a fine solo goal. Dedi Ben-Dayan hammered in the fourth and final nail in what could be Ben-Shimon’s coffin 10 minutes from time.

The pressure will now be on Hapoel’s board to fire the coach, whose tenure at the club has one of underachievement.

“It was a painful defeat,” Ben-Shimon admitted after the game. “We made some mistakes that are not suitable for players at this level. We were weak today and received a slap on the face, and I take responsibility for this. I’m not resigning … I have the ability to change the things that were not done properly. There have been a lot of ups and downs [this season], and the downs are definitely more painful. Right now we can’t achieve a balance.”