Haifa Easily Pads First-place Position

Maccabi Haifa extended its comfortable advantage over the competition last night, breezing past an outclassed Hapoel Be'er Sheva 4-1 at home.

Shlomi Arbeitman, the league's top scorer, first lit up the scoreboard in the 19th minute with a bullet from 18 meters out. Captain Yaniv Katan helped double the advantage 16 minutes later, whipping up a beautiful pass for the striker to lift his goal tally this season to 15.

Maor Melikson thwarted Haifa keeper Nir Davidovitch's plans of holding the longest goalless streak in Premier League history, beating the national team goalie just after the break.

But Haifa's Dekel Keinan responded in the 58th to banish any thoughts the top-tier newcomers might have had of slaying the Green Giants.

Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Hapoel Ra'anana 2-0 to claim second place over city rival Hapoel Tel Aviv. Maccabi's celebration, however, is unlikely to last long - Hapoel faces lowly Ashdod FC tonight.

Meanwhile, the Eyal Golasa saga dragged on over the weekend. Golasa, who signed a five-season contract with Italian side S.S. Lazio last week, landed in Israel this weekend and indicated that he would be rejoining Maccabi Haifa after all. Golasa and his agents met Friday with club owner Yaakov Shahar, and after apologizing for abandoning the club signed a document indicating that the contract he signed as a minor with Haifa is binding after all.

"We never had any doubt that the agreement signed between us was binding," Shahar said. "That's why we sat tight and didn't come out against Eyal. We waited patiently until everyone realized the truth. I have no shadow of a doubt that Eyal's advisers misled him in causing him to act as he did."

"We will embrace Eyal - he is a talented player and we'll do everything to ensure he develops and goes far at Haifa, and at bigger clubs in the future. We are not welcoming Eyal back. From our perspective, he never left," Shahar said.

But the Lazio president said Friday that Golasa had signed with his team and is expected to return. "Eyal Golasa is a Lazio player, has signed with the club and been registered with the Italian Football Federation, and we're therefore expecting to see him back in Rome," Claudio Lotito said.