(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Netanya made new owner Daniel Jammer proud in its Premier League opener.
The yellows hosted three-time defending champion Maccabi Haifa at "The Box" and showed no signs of inferiority while prevailing 3-1 with a typical Eli Guttman performance.
"Unbelievable. Spectacular," a delighted Gutman told reporters. "The quick goal helped us and the team responded by playing a very sound and tactical game. I must also mention the crowd, which helped us a lot."
Haifa, clearly fatigued after its midweek Champions League qualification showdown against Liverpool, was outplayed in all departments and provided little resistance.
"We just couldn't recover from the early goal," explained Haifa coach Roni Levy after the loss. "We found ourselves running after Netanya all along and it just wasn't our day.
"We didn't want to start the league this way. But Haifa is a strong team and I am sure we will bounce back from this loss."
Hapoel Kfar Saba took off just where it stopped last season. Eli Ohana's squad appeared to be in midseason as it thrashed Eyal Lachman's Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Ashdod SC secured a narrow win over Reuven Atar's Maccabi Herzliya, while newcomer Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan drew with Guy Luzon's Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Betar Jerusalem will be looking to rebound from its UEFA Cup exit last week to make a successful start to the domestic season on Sunday night when it faces Eli Cohen's Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
Matchday 1 of the Premier League will be completed Monday evening with a Tel Aviv derby between Yitzhak Schum's Hapoel Tel Aviv and Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda.
Maccabi Netanya 3,
Maccabi Haifa 1
"The Box" is known as one the most intimate stadiums in Israel and it didn't take defending champion Maccabi Haifa long to feel the heat.
The yellows randomly cleared the ball and Isaac "Okocha" Abodo used his speed to take possession in midfield. The Nigerian forward then dribbled past the Haifa rearguard and cold-bloodedly jabbed the ball past Nir Davidovic to draw first blood in the second minute.
Netanya didn't hold back after the early goal and kept looking for a second with well-orchestrated attacks led by forwards Adrian Pito and Itai Shekhter.
In the 41st minute, Shekhter received the ball in the penalty area, spinned past Haifa sweeper Rafael Olara and blasted the ball into the far corner to double Netanya's lead.
Haifa failed to reverse the momentum after the halftime break and Netanya punished the greens for another defensive blunder in the 59th minute.
Ophir Haim crossed the ball towards Okocha from the left flank. Okocha delicately chipped the ball over Davidovic to complete his brace and put the game beyond Haifa's reach.
Roberto Colautti cut into the deficit when he headed in a Gustavo Boccoli cross in the 89th minute.
Hapoel Kfar Saba 4,
Hapoel Petah Tikva 1
Eli Ohana's side come out with an attacking formation and about 2,000 enthusiastic fans at the newly renovated Levita Stadium witnessed the first goal of the new season just minutes after kickoff.
Veteran defender Ofer Talker, making his debut for the greens, showed great vision and sent the ball towards Yaoza Abubakri upfront. The slick Ghanaian midfielder breezed past the defense, took the ball in stride and rolled the ball into the net to give Kfar Saba a thirdminute lead.
Petah Tikva suffered another setback in the last minute of the first half when forward Ahmed Kasum committed a brutal foul and received his marching orders, leaving the blues in critical condition.
The hosts kept pressing forward in the second half and increased its lead in the 54th minute, when Brazilian striker Jose Duarte converted a penalty, in the 65th, when Ben Luz scored with a spectacular swirling kick, and in the 74th, when Samuel Yeboah capped the scoring for Hapoel Kfar Saba.
Cheik Gaidaga netted the consolation goal for Petah Tikva in the 79th minute with a low drive from point-blank range, just moments before Yiftakh Harari's sending off, which left his team with nine players.
"Our first half was not perfect, but I'm pleased with the team's overall performance," Ohana said. "Our aim this season is to stay away from the relegation zone and I am sure we will stay away from trouble."
Maccabi Petah Tikva 0,
Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan 0
While Ramat Gan coach Uri Malmillian opted for a defensive game plan, settling for the occasional counterattack, Petah Tikva fielded an offensive formation looking for a winner.
But with top goalscorer Omer Golan on the bench due to poor match fitness, Petah Tikva failed to show resolve in front of goal. The "Luzons" failed to score despite clear advantage in ball possession, enabling the visitors to win a point from the stalemate.
Ashdod SC 1,
Maccabi Herzliya 0
Ashdod opened the season with a victory after a closely contested match against Reuven Atar's Herzliya, which was left with 10 men in the 70th minute after Shai Mimon was sent off.
The hosts made Herzliya pay 10 minutes later. Shai Holtzman received the ball from David Revivo and slipped the ball towards Idan Shriki, who provided a
On TV: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Betar Jerusalem (live at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 10).