Incoming Maccabi Haifa coach Aleksandar Stanojevic was given plenty to mull over after seeing the team he will inherit drop to a humbling 3-1 defeat to Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Monday night.
Haifa announced on Friday that it has come to terms with the Serbian coach to take charge of the side at the start of next season, ending Arik Benado’s time at the helm. The 40-year-old Stanojevic, who won a league and cup double with Partizan Belgrade in the 2010/11 season before coaching in China in recent years, was given a preview of the magnitude of the task he faces next season after the Greens were outplayed by Kiryat Shmona on the way to their fifth defeat in the past six matches.
Edin Cocalic headed Haifa into the lead in the 19th minute, but a Roei Kehat brace (23, 37) put Kiryat Shmona in control by halftime and Mindaugas Panka’s clinical finish secured the points 10 minutes into the second half.
Kiryat Shmona all but clinched a third-place finish with Monday’s victory, reestablishing a seven-point gap over Hapoel Tel Aviv with four matches to play. Haifa remained four points behind Hapoel Tel Aviv, losing important ground in the battle for fourth place. The team to finish in fourth place will qualify for the Europa League should Kiryat Shmona claim the State Cup next Wednesday with a victory over Maccabi Netanya in the final and end the league campaign among the top three.
Haifa got the match off to an encouraging start, taking the lead in the 19th minute through a Cocalic header, with the officials failing to spot that the Bosnian defender was clearly offside.
However, Haifa’s lead lasted less than four minutes, with Kehat finding the back of the net with a header that caught goalkeeper Bojan Saranov offguard.
The Serbian stopper also played a part in Kehat’s second goal, with the 21-year-old firing an accurate, but far from unstoppable effort, from 20 meters out into the bottom left corner in the 37th minute. The contest was as good as over in the 55th minute, with Panka scoring Kiryat Shmona’s third goal of the night to effectively clinch all three points.