Soccer / Premier League

Maccabi Tel Aviv Strolls to the Top

Hapoel Tel Aviv back to scoring form, but Maccabi Haifa’s crisis continues.

Defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv sailed past the 2010-2011 champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona 3-0 at the Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday to move three points clear of the Premier League pack after only four rounds of games, with four wins and a 9-0 goal tally.

The Yellows started the game with an unfamiliar lineup that included debutant Dan Einbinder in midfield after coach Paulo Sousa chose to rest two of his leading players, Rade Prica and Barak Itzhaki, while captain Sheran Yeini was sick.

Maccabi was dominant throughout the early stages of the game, and took the lead in the eighth minute through a superb Eran Zahavi shot from 20 meters. Zavahi, captain for the day, set up the second, astutely passing to Tal Ben Haim on the right flank, whose cross was tapped in by Moanes Dabour.

Then, right on the stroke of half-time, came a strike that will probably be a candidate for goal of the season: Ben Haim laid the ball off to Dor Micha, who returned the favor with the cheekiest of backheels for Ben Haim to blast the ball into the net and make it 3-0 at the break.

The champion dropped a gear as the game progressed, but remained utterly in control and, if not for some brave goalkeeping by Kiryat Shmona’s Guy Haimov, would have added at least three more goals.

Hapoel Be’er Sheva, which also boasts a perfect record so far, will join the Yellows if it beats 11th-placed Bnei Yehuda at home tomorrow.

Five days after losing 3-0 to Maccabi Tel Aviv at home, last season’s runner-up Maccabi Haifa still looked shell-shocked during a dismal goalless draw at third-placed Bnei Sakhnin’s Doha Stadium.

In fact, the hosts were by far the better team and should have won the game, but were denied by two questionable refereeing decisions.

What appeared to be a legitimate goal by Spanish defender Abraham Paz was denied due to offside, then just after half-time Mohammed Kalibat was brought down in the area but no penalty was awarded.

Fourth-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv breezed past Hapoel Haifa with a 4-0 win in Haifa’s Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.

Ran Ben Shimon’s charges were dominant from the outset but missed a hatful of chances in a goalless first half.

Tel Aviv maintained the momentum after the break, and Omer Damari opened the scoring in the 47th minute. Ten minutes later Gil Vermouth set up Itay Shechter for the second. When Hapoel Haifa’s Ahad Azam was sent off in the 75th minute the game was effectively over.

Damari and Yisrael Zaguri’s late goals gave the game a scoreline that reflected its one-sidedness.

Hapoel Ashdod also had a stroll in the park, easily defeating a weak Ironi Ramat Hasharon 3-0 through goals from David Solari, Roei Beckel and Gadi Kinde.

Ashdod moves up to seventh place in the table. Ramat Hasharon, meanwhile, remains firmly rooted at the bottom.

Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Acre, ranked 12th and 13th in the 14-team table, maintained their unenviable record of not yet winning a game with a dour 1-1 draw that saw them both earning their first point of the campaign.

Yaron Bar Lev