Maccabi Haifa continued its surge up the Premier League standings on Sunday
night, beating Ashdod SC 4-1 to leapfrog into third place.
Haifa was in
13th position out of 14 teams when Arik Benado took charge of the side in place
of Reuven Atar less than two months ago.
The Greens haven’t lost in eight
matches since, winning six of their past seven encounters to emerge as a
championship contender once more.
Haifa could have clinched the win in
the first half, but it converted just one of its many chances, with Eyal
Golasa’s splendid 40th-minute goal giving Benado’s men a halftime
Ashdod finally displayed some urgency and accuracy at the start of
the second half and Hatem El-Hamid leveled the score in the 56th minute,
snapping Haifa’s four-match clean-sheet streak.
However, despite conceding
its first goal since November 26, Haifa showed its character by regaining the
lead against the run of play through Hen Ezra in the 75th minute before Eyal
Meshumar (92) and Alon Turgeman (94) put the icing on the cake in stoppage
“We played an exceptional match,” said Benado, whose team closed to
within seven points of league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv, which visits Ironi Kiryat
Shmona on Monday. “The players fought hard and played attacking soccer. We put
on a show and I’m proud of the players.”
Haifa dominated Ashdod right
from the kickoff and should have really taken the lead in the 11th minute, but
Weeam Amasha made a mess of his shot with just ‘keeper Ofir Marziano to
Marziano denied Golasa and Ezra before the former broke the
deadlock with a superb effort, turning in the box and firing an unstoppable shot
into the top left corner.
El-Hamid netted a deserved equalizer for the
hosts nine minutes into the second half, but Haifa weathered the storm and
Ezra’s goal broke Ashdod’s spirit before Meshumar and Turgeman poured salt on
the floundering Ashdod’s wounds.