Maccabi Tel Aviv celebrated their return to league duties with a 3-1 win over Maccabi Haifa courtesy of an own goal, a classic Eran Zahavi header and a stellar free kick from Eden Ben Basat
For the Maccabi Tel Aviv squad, three weeks of international and holiday break sufficed to put the disappointment of September's first league defeat to Hapoel Beer Sheva behind them and return to winning ways with a highly charged 3-1 home victory over Maccabi Haifa. Over 13,000 fans packed the Bloomfield Stadium terraces to watch a contest that delivered on all of its promises: Four goals, two red cards and a whole host of goalscoring opportunities that kept the sell-out crowd at the edge of their seats throughout most of the match.
As one would expect from a clash between these two Israeli Premier League titans, the match got off to a frenetic start and served up a first half replete with everything except goals. With just two minutes gone Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Eran Zahavi curled a free kick from the edge of the area that narrowly missed the goal. Five minutes later at the other end, Haifa's controversial Spanish midfielder Ruben Rayos raced free down the right but shot high, and with still less than ten minutes showing on the clock striker Weaam Amasha headed a free kick that bounced off the far post. In the next ten minutes Haifa forward Alon Turgeman twice headed crosses from excellent scoring positions, the first wide and the second into the outstretched arms of Maccabi Tel Aviv keeper Juan Carlos. On 22 minutes Maccabi Haifa were down to 10 men when Maccabi Tel Aviv winger Tal Ben Chaim, found with a long ball ahead of his marker on the edge of the area, was tripped up by last-standing defender Eyal Meshumar, who saw straight red for his effort. Three minutes later Eran Zahavi came even closer with his second free kick of the evening and near to the break shot wide from inside the area after being sent through on goal by midfielder Gal Alberman. Fellow midfielder Maharan Radi tested Haifa's Serbian international keeper Vladimir Stojkovic with a powerful shot that ended a turbulent first half.
The second half opened at the same pace as the first but with a more orderly run of play. The result was Maccabi Tel Aviv's first goal after just seven minutes when young midfielder Dor Micha found Ben Chaim free on the left and his low strike was turned into the net by Haifa defender Taleb Tawatha. But just seven minutes later the same Micha was responsible for surrendering the home-side 1-0 advantage when he tripped up Haifa midfielder Hen Ezra in the area and Ruben Rayos scored from the spot. The home side however showed no sign of relenting and home-side fans were back on their feet ten minutes later when they retook the lead with a splendid cross from Serbian midfielder Nikola Mitrovic that found Eran Zahavi in the area who headed in for 2-1. Ten minutes from time Haifa were down to nine men when Bosnian defender Edin Cocalic was sent off for a second bookable offence and the resultant free kick produced one of the highlights of the evening for the Maccabi Tel Aviv faithful, a superb shot into the upper right-hand corner of the net by substitute striker Eden Ben Basat, his maiden league goal for the club after arriving in the summer. The referee's whistle after three minutes of extra time signed off on Maccabi Tel Aviv's 3-1 victory, their fourth in the last five contests against their northern namesakes.This coming Sunday Maccabi Tel Aviv will continue their league campaign at Netanya Municipal Stadium as guests of Hapoel Acre.
Before the match began, Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club held a ceremony in memory of former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo ("Chich") Lahat, who passed away at the beginning of October. His son, Tel Aviv municipal council member Dan Lahat, and his grandson Tom were both on hand to accept from first team manager Benny Tabak and captain Sheran Yeini a framed Maccabi Tel Aviv team jersey as a token of the club's esteem. Lahat was Tel Aviv mayor for four consecutive terms between 1974 to 1993 and is largely seen as the man who set in motion the transformation of the city into the vibrant metropolis it is today.