Maccabi Haifa captain Yossi Benayoun celebrates after scoring his team’s winner in a 1-0 victory at Ironi Kiryat Shmona, March 9, 2015.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
A fortuitous Yossi Benayoun winner in the 88th minute gave Maccabi Haifa a 1-0 victory at Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday night, taking the Greens into the top six while also doing league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv a massive favor.
The yellow-and-blue can move seven points clear of Kiryat Shmona at the top of the Premier League standings should it beat Beitar Jerusalem at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa today.
Beitar will be hosting the match in Haifa after being punished by the Israel Football Association for the unruly and racist behavior of its fans.
Despite its dismal campaign, Haifa will have its fate in its own hands entering the final weekend of the regular season thanks to Sunday’s win.
Haifa stringed together two straight victories for just the second time this season, with its only previous winning streak coming more than three months ago.
A win over Hapoel Haifa in the derby will book Maccabi’s place in the championship playoffs for which only the top six sides will qualify.
“We played well and worked hard and beat one of the best teams in the league,” said Benayoun, who found the back of the net after his shot from 20 meters out took a wicked deflection off Vova Brown.
“We recorded a great win and we need to complete the job next week.”
Kiryat Shmona’s season continued to unravel on Sunday, with Barak Bachar’s team going winless in its past four league matches and being knocked out in the State Cup quarterfinals by Maccabi Tel Aviv last week.
“We controlled the match and were the much better team and God only knows how we conceded a goal,” said a frustrated Bachar. “We didn’t deserve to lose.
The players gave their all and I’m not disappointed in their performance.”