Maccabi held on to win the much-anticipated Tel Aviv Derby over Hapoel 3-0 on Wednesday thanks to an early goal and a late penalty and the goalpost that prevented their opponents getting an equaliser on the brink of halftime.

The always tense and exciting occasion was marred by some pyrotechnics immediately after the kickoff when fires broke out in the stands and the game was held up for several minutes. 

Once play resumed, Maccabi were generally the dominant side in the first half and it wasn’t long before that advantage was manifested on the scoreboard when in the 15th minute Avi Rikan picked up an excellent through ball on the edge of the area from Omer Atzili and advanced to strike a curling right-footed shot around Hapoel goalkeeper Yoav Gerafi low into the back of the net.

The match continued untidily and Hapoel fought bravely but had little to show for their efforts. They came very close, however, when Omri Altman almost became the first player this season to score against Maccabi in the league as he curled a beautiful shot from outside the area on the left that beat Maccabi goalkeeper Daniel Tenenbaum but the ball rebounded off the post and Maccabi’s goal remained safe, but only just. 

Hapoel began the second half with determination and within the first minute Altman was again close to the goal with a chance to score from an acute angle but he was thwarted by the Maccabi defence.

Maccabi were generally on the back foot as Hapoel controlled the pace and possession until the final 20 minutes but towards the end, when Itai Shechter came on as substitute for the tiring Aron Schoenfeld and the tables were turned in the visitors’ favour.

Maccabi were awarded a late penalty on review when Shechter was brought down in front of goal in the 87th minute by Hapoel’s Orel Dgani, Yonatan Cohen stepped up to confidently blast the ball into the back of Hapoel’s net.

Eilon Almog completed the scoreline and turned what had been a tightly fought game into a rout when he slotted the ball into the back of Gerafi’s net in the fifth and final minute of injury time.

Maccabi now lead the TASE Premier League standing by five points because Maccabi Haifa surprisingly drew 3-3 at home against Ashdod SC.

Tenenbaum has now increased his record for keeping a clean sheet to 12 matches this season and a total of 1,173 minutes since the last time he let in a league goal.