Maccabi will finish the pre-playoff season five points clear after beating Hapoel Petach Tikva 2-0 at Bloomfield

Maccabi Tel Aviv completed their second round of pre-playoff fixtures with a 2-0 home victory over Hapoel Petach Tikva that extends their lead at the top of the Israeli Premier ("Winner") League table to five points. Midfielder Eran Zahavi got on the scoreboard first with his 21st goal of the season after ten minutes when he was sent through in the area by fellow midfielder Nosa Igiebor. Ten minutes later a third Maccabi midfielder, Dor Micha, doubled the home-side advantage with a good personal effort, scoring his third goal of the campaign from an acute angle on the right after receiving a clever ball from team captain Sheran Yeini. With the exception of a short period following the restart, Hapoel Petach Tikva rarely looked like mounting a serious threat of their own and in the end the two early goals sufficed to hand Maccabi their 17th win of the current season.

Prior to kick-off, both teams entered the pitch wearing t-shirts in support of efforts to combat intestinal cancer. But once the match got started the similarities between the sides disappeared altogether, with Maccabi completely dominating events on the pitch. The first goal was not long in coming when after just ten minutes Maccabi's Nigerian midfielder Nosa Igiebor powered his way toward the Petach Tikva area and threaded a pin-point pass to Eran Zahavi, who shot past keeper Dreshler Kale for his 21st goal of the season to give the home side an early 1-0 lead. Five minutes later striker Eden Ben Basat received a ball ahead of the Petach Tikva defence but saw his excellent opportunity to double the advantage frustrated by an heroic Dreshler Kale, who sent the ball off for a corner kick. But Maccabi kept up the pressure and just shy of the twenty-minute mark midfielder Dor Micha received a clever pass down the right from team captain Sheran Yeini and after moving in on goal struck past Kale from an acute angle to double the home-side advantage. Now trailing 2-0, the visitors suddenly came alive and on 26 minutes defender Kobi Musa got off a good shot from the edge of the area. Near to the break midfielder Guy Dayan also came close but at half time the game was still Maccabi's to win. The stage was then briefly occupied by members of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club, who proudly displayed the State Cup trophy they so recently, and deservedly, won.

After the restart it was Hapoel Petach Tikva that showed greater signs of life and on-loan midfielder Dor Kochav had a reasonable chance of pulling one back for the visitors. Later Dor Micha back-heeled to Eran Zahavi in the Petach Tikva area, but the prolific midfielder could not get off the final shot. It was not until the 71st minute that some sparkle returned to the game. That's when long-injured striker Barak Itzhaki came on as a substitute and within a minute he had already rounded his defender and served up a good ball for Zahavi. Three minutes later he did the same for fellow substitute Tal Ben Chaim, who first shook off his marker and then struck a whisker off-target. But Itzhaki showed his real magic when he caught Kale straying far off his line and nearly beat him with a long ball. After that Zahavi left defender Ben Turjeman in the dust but missed the net and two minutes later came very close with an acrobatic volley from inside the area. Further opportunities by Tal Ben Chaim and Barak Itzhaki notwithstanding, even three minutes of injury time saw no further scoring in the second half. But the 2-0 victory sends Maccabi five points clear of Hapoel Beer Sheva at the top of the table and adds three precious points to Maccabi's championship campaign, which will continue in the top-six playoffs next Sunday at home against a resurgent Maccabi Haifa.