Amasha does it all in Mac Haifa’s 4-1 rout

Hap Rishon, K8, Acre also triumphant; two games postponed for security reasons.

soccer 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
soccer 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After scoring a hat-trick on his Champions League debut for Maccabi Haifa, Weeam Amasha went one better on Saturday evening, netting four goals in his first Premier League match for the Greens, a 4-1 victory at Maccabi Netanya.
The 26-year-old became just the third player to score four goals in the first weekend of a Premier League season and the first to do so since Hapoel Ramat Gan’s Avner Lavon in 1965/66.
“The most important thing is that we got our league campaign off on the right foot,” said Amasha after a victory which wasn’t as impressive as the score line indicates.
“This is the first time I’ve scored four goals in a match and I’m happy I helped the team. However, we have already turned our focus to the match against Genk on Tuesday.”
Haifa takes a 2-1 lead into the second leg of its Champions League playoff tie against KRC Genk and will be looking to advance to the group stage for the second time in three years.
The hosts dominated the first half in Netanya and it seemed as though Levy would pay the price for making six changes to the team which beat Genk on Wednesday.
Firas Mugrabi gave Netanya a deserved lead in the 21st minute, but Amasha equalized for the Greens eight minutes later with Haifa’s only real chance of the first half.
The visitors moved up a gear after the break, with Amasha heading Haifa into the lead in the 55th minute, before completing his hat-trick six minutes later and scoring his fourth of the match four minutes from time.
It wasn’t all good news for Haifa on Saturday, with Croatian defender Jurica Buljat dislocating his shoulder, an injury which is set to keep him out for at least six weeks.
Ukrainian defender Andriy Pylyavskyi was ruled out for around two months with an ankle injury just two weeks ago, meaning new signing Itzik Cohen and 19-year-old Sari Falach will likely start in the center of the defense in the crucial match against Genk.
“We had an awful first half,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “We allowed Netanya to create chances too easily, but in the second half we were a completely different team.”
Levy wasn’t surprised by Amasha’s performance and is thinking of strengthening his squad after losing his two senior center-backs.
“We didn’t need this match to know Amasha is a good player,” Levy said.
“He’s hungry, he wants to succeed and he has a good character. He will only continue to improve.
“We have had a lot of bad luck with injuries and for now we will have to count on Falach and Cohen.”
Three more matches took place on Saturday, with two games being postponed due to the security situation in the south of the country.
After discussions with police, the Israel Football Association decided on Friday to postpone Betar Jerusalem’s match at Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon’s encounter at Ashdod SC. The IFA is hoping to reschedule the matches for Tuesday, but that will of course depend on the state of affairs in the south.
“The decision to cancel the match was correct,” Ashdod midfielder David Revivo said. “Lives are more important than soccer and it is better not to take a chance.”
Hapoel Rishon Lezion made a triumphant return to the Premier League on Saturday, beating Bnei Sakhnin 4-2 at Haberfeld Stadium in its first match in the top-flight since 2003.
Asi Baldut gave the hosts the lead in the 38th minute in his debut for Rishon and scored his second of the match five minutes later after Liran Cohen equalized in the 41st.
Kostadin Hazurov got Sakhnin back on level terms once more eight minutes after the break, but goals from Elvis Mesic (74) and Dudu Avraham (82) ensured the hosts celebrated their return to the league in style.
Also Saturday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Acre both got their campaigns off to winning starts.
Kiryat Shmona beat Hapoel Haifa 1-0 on the road, with Barak Badash scoring the winner from the penalty spot in the 39th minute. Eyal Tartazki (68) and Oshri Roash (90) were both sent off for the hosts.
Acre beat Bnei Yehuda 2-0 at home, with new defenders Moshe Mishaelof (18) and Nisso Kapiloto (45) scoring in their first matches for the team.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Petah Tikva, with Hapoel Tel Aviv hosting Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday.