Haifa, Tel Aviv fight to entertaining 2-2 draw

Shorthanded Greens come back from two goals down to secure draw against champions.

Maccabi Haifa's Hen Ezra 370 (photo credit: Uzi Gal)
Maccabi Haifa's Hen Ezra 370
(photo credit: Uzi Gal)
Despite playing with 10 men from the 21st minute, Maccabi Haifa came back from two goals down to draw 2- 2 with newly-crowned Premier League champion Maccabi Tel Aviv at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Monday night.
With Tel Aviv clinching its first championship since 2003 last week and Haifa destined to end the season in second place, there was an understandable anticlimactic atmosphere in Haifa.
Tel Aviv made six changes to the team that beat Hapoel Ramat Hasharon 2-0 last week, but still seemed to be cruising to its first win over the Greens at Kiryat Eliezer in nine years after taking a 2-0 lead into the halftime break.
Starting in his first match since December, Gonzalo Garcia gave the yellow-and-blue the lead from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute, with Haifa’s Gustavo Boccoli being sent off for blocking the ball with his hand on the line.
After failing to score in the league since November, Gonzalo netted his second goal of the night three minutes from the break with a superb strike from the edge of the box.
The visitors looked to be in complete control, but Dekel Keinan’s header eight minutes after the interval handed Haifa a lifeline and less than two minutes later Hen Ezra leveled the score with a sensational shot from 20 meters out to extend Haifa’s unbeaten run against Tel Aviv.
“We managed to embarrass them with 10 players and we scored twice which is something that is very difficult to do,” said Haifa coach Arik Benado. “The players showed character and fought until the very end.
Considering how the game unfolded I’m quite happy with a draw.”
Tel Aviv coach Oscar Garcia was surprisingly pleased with the outcome.
“I think that after the result of the first half we thought that everything was over, but on the pitch we saw that the game wasn’t finished,” said Oscar. “But I’m happy because the players gave 100 percent. It’s a good result against a good team.”