Mac Haifa rides early goal to beat Beitar

Turgeman, Ezra lift Greens; Mac PT rallies to draw Mac TA, which still overtakes Hap BS atop standings.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Nikola Mitrovic 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Nikola Mitrovic 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa continued its string of unbeaten encounters against Beitar Jerusalem, defeating the yellow and black 2-0 on a beautiful Haifa Sunday evening.
The win was the club’s 800th since the founding of the State of Israel and helped ease the pressure on the team’s disappointing start to the season.
Haifa entered the game with a 12- game undefeated streak against the visiting Jerusalem club, last losing to Beitar at Kiryat Eliezer back in 2008.
However, home has not been a welcome place for Haifa this year, as it has only a lone victory in the season’s first round and surprisingly scored its only domicile goals in a 3-1 victory over Kiryat Shmona to open the campaign.
Coming into the match, Greens’ embattled coach Arik Benado received plenty of support from his charges as he went with an offensive lineup in order to change his fortunes.
Haifa did not disappoint its fans and management, coming out flying in the first half and producing the majority of chances before finally breaking the ice on a goal by former Beitar player Alon Turgeman in the 12th minute off a superb pass by struggling midfielder Ruben Rayos.
Benado decided to mix up his offense by playing Rayos on the left side of the pitch, which allowed him more freedom in front of speedy left back Taleb Tawatha.
That left Haifa captain Yaniv Katan more of an opportunity to control the midfield as Hen Ezra roamed on the right side, as opposed to the usual left.
The result produced by these changes was total domination by Haifa in the first half. which ended with a 1-0 Greens’ lead.
The second half saw more of the same from the two clubs, with Haifa controlling the tempo but unable to take advantage of its many opportunities until the 79th minute when Tawatha lifted a ball from the left side into the crowded Beitar box, where Ezra put the game out of reach with an intelligent shot that reached the back of the Jerusalem net.
Beitar never came close to tying up the score on its rare opportunities during the end-to-end action-packed final 45 minutes.
It was a long night for Beitar coach Eli Cohen’s strikers, Ibrahim Bangura and Yitzik Cohen, who did not receive service from the midfield of Bryan Jones, Shay Hadad and Ofir Kriaf, leading to Jerusalem’s first loss in five matches.
In other action from Monday, defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv drew 2-2 with Maccabi Petah Tikva in a wild and crazy game at Bloomfield Stadium that gave the yellow-and-blue a share of first place with Hapoel Beersheba.
Eran Zahavi, Maccabi’s star in its 4-2 Europa League victory over Frankfurt last Thursday night, scored on a questionable 50th minute penalty.
Tel Aviv doubled its lead on a terrific strike by Nikola Mitrovic in the 59th minute off a nice pass by Rada Prica.
However, Petah Tikva shocked the home side by scoring two goals in three minutes to equalize.
The first came in the 75th minute on a bizarre Tel Aviv own-goal that saw ’keeper Juan Pablo Colinas swat away a corner kick right into defender Mane’s leg. The tying mark was scored by Petah Tikva on a Diaa Sabia rocket past Juan Pablo from 25 meters to split the points.