It may be a new year, but for Hapoel Tel Aviv the results don't change. The defending Premier League champions steamrolled their way to an easy 5-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa on Saturday.
Ben Sahar scored twice, Eran Zahavi and Salim Toama contributed a goal apiece, and Itay Shechter returned from a long absence to score a penalty kick, cementing a victory that has Hapoel Tel Aviv in first place - for now.
"A soccer coach also has to know how to analyze a 5-0 game and see what areas of the game can be strengthened and improved," Tel Aviv coach Eli Guttman said. "There is always work to do. The team played excellently and knew how to take advantage of its scoring opportunities."
Tel Aviv's Nigerian goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, returned home to attend to family matters, forcing Hapoel to turn to its backup, Galil Ben Sha'anan. "I try to do the best I can whenever I get an opportunity," Ben Sha'anan said. "I felt good, and the coordination with the defense was excellent."
At halftime, Hapoel Tel Aviv held a ceremony to bid farewell to Douglas da Silva, the Brazilian defender who will be joining Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg. "Da Silva was an anchor on defense," Guttman said. "He wasn't just an exceptional player, he was a key cog in the locker room. I think that Salzburg made an excellent deal and it will not be his last stop either."
Bnei Sakhnin recorded the most unlikely victory on Saturday, defeating Hapoel Kiryat Shmona 1-0 at Doha Stadium in Sakhnin. It was the first home win of the season for Sakhnin, which needs to amass points to avoid relegation. Defender Mahran Abu Raiya's blast from a sharp angle lifted the home team to victory.
Hapoel Be'er Sheva, which came into Saturday's match against Maccabi Petah Tikva winless in its last three, staged a dramatic comeback that was capped by a goal in the 90th minute by Brazilian midfielder William Suarez. This is the second time this season that Be'er Sheva has edged Petah Tikva with a goal in the final minute.
Last-place Hapoel Ramat Gan managed a 1-1 draw against Bnei Yehuda yesterday, while FC Ashdod was impressive in its 3-1 victory over Hapoel Acre. Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya played to a 0-0 standstill.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now