After being introduced as Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new coach in the morning, Pako Ayestaran notched his first win with the team on Sunday night, guiding the yellow-and-blue to a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv in Toto Cup action at Bloomfield Stadium.
The 51-year-old Spaniard replaced countryman Oscar Garcia last week after the later surprisingly left the club, a decision he has yet to explain.
Pako watched from the stands as Maccabi was knocked out of the Europa League by Asteras of Greece in Larnaca, Cyprus last Thursday, and he held his first training session with the players the following day.
He held a session on Sunday morning ahead of the match, but he first met the Israeli media and explained his decision to join the yellow-andblue.
“This is a well organized club.
They have a clear idea where they want to take this club and the management’s objectives go beyond football,” he explained. “One of the things that convinced me to come is that the club believes that the results have to be achieved through the process and the values of the club. This is a club that has a great future.”
Ayestaran said he has no concerns regarding his safety in Israel, explaining that he is Basque and that he experienced similar situations in his homeland in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Pako spent the last two seasons as manager of Mexican second-division side Estudiantes Tecos and was previously an assistant coach at Valencia (2009-2010, 2001-2004), Benfica (2008-2009), Liverpool (2004-2007) and Tenerife (2000-2001).
“The first thing I bring is passion,” he said. “This is something I really enjoy doing. I am really demanding on myself and I also try to get the same from the people around me.”
Pako said he has been impressed by his new players, explaining that they have “shown me that they have hunger and desire.” He stressed that “we have to continue to improve because when you stop doing so you go backwards.”
“The players have to show they are good enough to be here,” he added.
“As I explained to the players, if you don’t keep yourself on the edge you have no chance.”
Ayestaran said he wants his players to “take the initiative and try to play as much as possible in the opponent’s half,” hence his displeasure with the team’s performance on Sunday.
Maccabi may have recorded the win, but it was far from convincing, with Hapoel threatening the yellow-and-blue’s goal time and again.
Tal Ben-Haim scored the winner for Maccabi in the 54th minute and moments later Hapoel goalkeeper Danny Amos was sent off for shoving defender Yoav Ziv during the goal celebrations.
With the Premier League season not beginning for almost two weeks after twice being postponed due to the security situation, Pako has got plenty of time to work with his players.
He will be able to continue and fine-tune the team in the Toto Cup quarterfinals, which take place in the coming weekend and in the middle of next week.
Maccabi and Hapoel will both be in Wednesday's quarterfinal draw, with Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Haifa and Bnei Sakhnin also already securing their progress.
"The result is probably the only good thing we can take from today," said Pako after Sunday's match. "The performance was not good enough. We've got good players but we didn't play well. I expected more, but today we were far away from the team I hope we become."