Resurgent Mac Haifa hopes for momentum vs Netanya

Haifa fired coach Reuven Atar last month after the team won just one of its first nine matches.

December 7, 2012 04:43
2 minute read.
MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan

MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan 370. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

Just two weeks after finding itself in a seemingly hopeless situation, Maccabi Haifa somehow enters Saturday’s match against Maccabi Netanya at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in a promising position.

Haifa fired coach Reuven Atar last month after the team won just one of its first nine matches. The Greens also failed to beat Bnei Sakhnin in their first game without Atar, but since Arik Benado has taken charge on a fulltime basis they have won two consecutive contests, against Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium and Hapoel Haifa in the derby.

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The Greens may not have been all that impressive in the past couple of weeks, but they finally displayed real resolve, something they desperately lacked under Atar.

Haifa’s two wins have moved it up to ninth place in the Premier League standings and Benado’s men are now just four points off Jerusalem in fourth.

“The players are the ones who have made the difference,” said the 39- year-old Benado, who retired just a year-and-a-half ago. “We started at a very low point and we are slowly building ourselves up. We are growing as a team and gaining confidence.

The improved play will arrive later on.

We are back in business, but there is still a long way to go until we reach the place we should be at.”

The sacked Atar may not be out of work for long as he is being mentioned in connection with a return to Netanya, which he left for Haifa in the summer.

Current Netanya coach Tal Banin has struggled to build a cohesive unit, with his team winning just one of its past eight matches, losing three of its last four.

Another coach who could find himself unemployed before too long is Hapoel Haifa’s Nir Klinger. Haifa remained bottom of the table after the 3-0 loss in the derby and another setback at fellow struggler Hapoel Ramat Gan on Saturday could prove to be the final straw for owner Yoav Katz.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon hosts Hapoel Beersheba, with Ashdod SC visiting Bnei Yehuda.

Hapoel Tel Aviv, which welcomes Hapoel Acre on Sunday, ended its Europa League Group B campaign in last position on Thursday night despite claiming its first victory. The Reds beat Academica de Coimbra of Portugal 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium thanks to goals from Victor Mare (56) and Hanan Maman (80).

Ironi Kiryat Shmona, which played its final Europa League game at Olympique Lyon late Thursday night, goes to Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.

Also Monday, Betar Jerusalem faces Maccabi Tel Aviv at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.

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