Maccabi Haifa FC have brushed aside the disappointment of a UEFA Champions League group stage that set records for all the wrong reasons by leaving the Ligat Ha'Al pack trailing in their wake.
Saturday's 3-0 home win against Hapoel Ra'anana FC was Haifa's 16th victory from 17 league matches this season, earning a ten-point cushion over Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC at the summit. "I can't remember such a season," said veteran goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch, who has not been breached for six domestic fixtures now.
Haifa's enthusiasm must be tempered, however. Their flying first half of the campaign comes in a remodelled league containing 16, rather than 12 teams. The division's format has also changed, with each side's points tally halved after 30 matches, after which a five-game play-off ensues. In short, Haifa's ten-point lead would swiftly become five.
Their form suggests they will take some catching. A 1-0 triumph over Hapoel Haifa FC on matchday 15 took them to 42 points, more than any other team has ever accrued at the same stage. They are now just three behind the 19 victories that landed them last term's title having won seven of their eight away games, a landmark they have not reached in 39 top-flight campaigns.
'Hard to grasp'
All this on the back of a UEFA Champions League Group A campaign in which the Greens became the first team to fail to pick up either a point or a goal. Back on track on the domestic scene they might be, but striker Yaniv Katan remains the model of caution. "
Our achievements so far are hard to grasp, but summaries are done in May," he said. "We must maintain the modesty which guided us over the last 18 months and keep our feet on the ground. The new point system, which will cut our tally in half and consequently our lead, is problematic as far as we're concerned."
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