Three first-half goals help Maccabi past Hapoel Acre 3-0 at Bloomfield. Barak Yitzhaki makes first league appearance of the season
In front of over 11,000 fans, Maccabi Tel Aviv scored three first-half goals, two of them from the penalty spot, to beat last-placed Hapoel Acre 3-0 at Bloomfield Stadium, their first victory there in more than two months. The first of those two penalties came in the very first minute of the match and set the tone for what proved to be a one-sided affair where only one club, Maccabi Tel Aviv, were destined to emerge victorious.
With less than a minute on the matchclock, Acre's Serbian defender Branislav Jovanovic inexplicably slapped away a high ball inside his own area and midfielder Eran Zahavi stepped up to score the resultant penalty, his 18th goal of the season. Maccabi continued their assault on the Acre goal and on 25 minutes Maccabi midfielder Gal Alberman sent a masterful ball from deep inside the Acre half down the right to Tal Ben Haim. The speedy winger proceeded to race it all the way to within shooting range of the Acre goal, where he switched feet before firing from an acute angle past Acre keeper David Goresh into the far post to double the home side's advantage. Nine minutes later Maccabi striker Eden Ben Basat was clipped from behind just inside the Acre area and also converted the awarded penalty to round off the scoring on the night, 3-0 in Maccabi's favour, their fifth consecutive league clean sheet. Maccabi have now also gone 27 home games without loss, just one short of the Israeli record. In two weeks' time, the Israeli champions will have the opportunity to equal that record when they welcome municipal archrivals Hapoel Tel Aviv for the traditional Tel Aviv derby.
Perhaps the most significant moment of the match though came in the scoreless second half, just short of the hour mark, when Barak Itzhaki was sent on for his first league appearance in eleven months. Having just last Wednesday scored a brace in Maccabi's 1-4 State Cup win at Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramla, the long-injured striker wasted no time in making his mark on the game when he struck straight at the Acre keeper. Tal Ben Haim nearly scored his second when his deflected shot was grabbed by Goresh at the last minute. Midfielder Mahran Radi, who came on along with Itzhaki, also came close with a low drive. But in the end it was the first half that settled the score and helped Maccabi maintain the pressure on league leaders Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, who remain just one point ahead at the top of the Israeli Premier league table.