A view of the new Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Haifa’s first match at the new Sammy Ofer Stadium couldn’t have gone any better on Monday night, with the Greens defeating Bnei Sakhnin 4-2 in their Premier League opener in front of a sold-out crowd of 30,000 fans.
After far too many years in the dilapidated Kiryat Eliezer Stadium and after the start to the season was postponed by three weeks due to the security situation, Haifa fans finally got to see their team play at Sammy Ofer and it was everything they had imagined.
Not only did they enjoy the experience of watching their team in a world class venue, but they also saw Haifa put on a show to get its season off to a dream start.
Haifa had to wait until the third minute of first-half stoppage time to break the deadlock before steamrolling Sakhnin in the second half.
Despite dominating the possession, Haifa struggled to threaten Sakhnin’s goal in the first half until Hen Ezra made the most of Sakhnin’s poor defending and netted the opener in the 48th minute.
It took the Greens less than two second-half minutes to double their advantage, with Ruben Rayos scoring after setting up the first goal.
The Spanish midfielder registered another assist in the 58th minute, doing all the hard work before squaring the ball for Shimon Abu Hazeira, who completed the task of tucking the ball into the empty net from close range.
Sakhnin got a goal back seven minutes later thanks to Yiannis Papadopoulos’s superb strike from 20 meters out, but it took Rayos just two more minutes to reestablish a three-goal gap, sending a splendid shot from a tight angle over ’keeper Mahmud Kandil.
Ahmed Nahia scored another consolation goal for Sakhnin in the 91st minute, but by that stage nothing could spoil Haifa’s party and its perfect start to the season.