Hapoel Tel Aviv did last night in Haifa what it had not done in nearly 40 years - score more than two goals. But yesterday there was no question about the dominant side on the pitch as Hapoel literally led wire-to-wire.
The last time Hapoel accomplished this feat on Maccabi Haifa's grounds, in 1972, it scored five times. This match was almost as good and had the defense to go with it to send Hapoel to its position at the top of the league table.
"It's an incredible result," said man-of-the match Ben Sahar, who scored Hapoel's first goal in the first minute. "Before the game I would not have believed we would win 4-1. Today we were better than Haifa, displaying amazing soccer. At the moment we are the best team in the country, but we need to keep it up to win the championship."
Sahar staked Hapoel Tel Aviv to its lightning lead by taking a cross lifted by Gil Vermouth and heading the ball deep into the net.
Maccabi Haifa quickly recovered but could not penetrate Hapoel's defenses until late in the first half. In the 44th minute, striker Tomer Hemed got the ball in the penalty area and spun around well, but his shot went straight into the legs of Hapoel's defenders.
Five minutes into the second half, Haifa finally managed to equalize. Yaniv Katan lifted a corner kick, which Hemed headed toward the goal. The ball rebounded toward Mohammad Gahdir, who pounced on the ball and slotted it into the net from close by.
Passing the hour mark, the game looked like it would remain tight through regulation, but Eran Zahavi started the onslaught in the 64th minute when he lifted a free kick from 17-meters that curved up into the top of the net, safely out of reach from Haifa goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch for the 2-1 lead.
Some 11 minutes later, Hapoel broke through Haifa's line. Shay Abutbul found Toto Tamuz, who rolled the ball in. As the game went into injury time, Haifa lost spirit, and Salim Toama finished the scoring with a straight and accurate missile from 17 meters into the corner.
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