Greens back to winning ways against Hapoel TA

Haifa gets back on track to climb to fifth position in tight Premier League standings.

Maccabi Haifa midfielder Hen Ezra firing past Hapoel Tel Aviv goalkeeper Tom Almadon (left) (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Haifa midfielder Hen Ezra firing past Hapoel Tel Aviv goalkeeper Tom Almadon (left)
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
 It wasn’t pretty, but Maccabi Haifa could hardly care less.
After suffering five defeats in its previous six matches, Haifa returned to winning ways on Sunday night with a 3-1 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv in front of 30,000 fans in a sold-out Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Despite the team’s struggles so far this season, which resulted in coach Aleksandar Stanojevic offering his resignation on two separate occasions, the Greens’ supporters filled the stadium on Sunday and the players responded on the field.
Haifa was anything but impressive, but converted two chances in the first half courtesy of Hen Ezra (9) and Weeam Amasha (36) and survived a late scare following Gili Vermut’s (89) penalty, with Idan Vered (92) clinching all three points.
Perhaps the best news for Haifa on Sunday was the return to the lineup of Yossi Benayoun, who was making just his third appearance of the season due to injuries.
“This is a very important win against a good team and after a difficult period,” said Benayoun, who set up Ezra’s opener.
“We had to get this win, but this is only the beginning. We now need to focus on Wednesday’s match against Maccabi Netanya. We need to string together a few wins and pick up some confidence.”
Haifa moved up from 12th place to fifth with the three points, while Hapol remained in fourth.
“This is a big victory for us,” said Stanojevic. “Some 30,000 fans came and we didn’t want to disappoint them again. We played with big emotion in the first half and gave everything in the last 10 minutes.”
Hapoel made the brighter start, with Ramzi Safouri finding himself all alone five meters from goal in the fifth minute, only to fail to place his header on target. Four minutes later Haifa hit Hapoel on the break.
Amasha’s initial shot was saved by ‘keeper Tom Almadon, but Benayoun found Ezra in space and the midfielder blasted the ball into the top right corner.
The Greens struggled nevertheless, but still doubled their lead nine minutes from the halftime break, allowing them to cruise in the second half.
Almadon did well to save Alon Turgeman’s effort, but Amasha was perfectly placed to open a two-goal advantage from the rebound.
The hosts showed little urgency and desire in the second half and had to survive some anxious moments after Vermut handed Hapoel a lifeline with his penalty in the 89th minute.
Tel Aviv sent everyone forward in search of an equalizer and Haifa took advantage, with Vered scoring from close range after a swift break forward to secure a rare win which might finally get the Greens back on track.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva at Teddy Stadium.