Maccabi Haifa’s Yossi Benayoun.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Yossi Benayoun scored his first goal in the Israeli Premier League in more than 12 years on Sunday night to help Maccabi Haifa back to winning ways with a sweet 4-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa in the derby at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
After starting in just one of Haifa’s first nine matches of the season due to injury, Benayoun’s recent return has given the Greens a much-needed boost. Since the 34-year-old midfielder was reinstated into the lineup, Haifa has won three of four games after triumphing only three times in its first nine encounters.
The Greens got off to a dream start at the first ever derby at Sammy Ofer, with Benayoun finding the back of the net in local league action for the first time since May 18, 2002.
The returning captain headed Hen Ezra’s cross beyond Hapoel goalkeeper Tvrtko Kale, but the hosts created the better chances in the remainder of the first half.
Canadian striker Tosaint Ricketts sent his header centimeters wide of the upright in the 31st minute, and despite a lackluster performance, Maccabi doubled its advantage one minute from the break.
Ezra did all the hard work down the right flank before crossing a perfect ball for Idan Vered.
Spanish midfielder Michel (75) and substitute Shimon Abu Hazeira (81) compounded the misery on Hapoel, while the Green fans continued to celebrate the win long after the final whistle.
Hapoel remained in last place with 11 points and the team may very well have a different coach at the helm in place of Reuven Atar by the time it hosts Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Ra’anana in Petah Tikva after being punished for the behavior of its fans last month against Bnei Sakhnin.
Beitar can climb up to fifth place and move six points clear of the relegation zone with a victory, while Ra’anana is desperate for the three points as it is currently only positioned above the bottom two thanks to its superior goal difference.