Maccabi Haifa gets off to worrying start

Atar’s boys fall to K8 at home for second defeat; Ashdod beats Bnei Sakhnin, top table.

Yaniv Katan 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Yaniv Katan 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The Premier League season is just two matches old, but the alarm bells are already ringing at Maccabi Haifa after Reuven Atar’s nightmare start to his tenure as coach continued with a second straight defeat, this time a 3-1 home loss to Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Haifa showed some promising signs in its 2-1 defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv last Monday, but it defensive vulnerabilities were exposed for all to see and Kiryat Shmona made the most of its opportunities, scoring three of its six shots on goal, while Haifa only converted one of 19.
The Greens were well placed at the break after Dino Ndlovo’s 19th-minute opener, but Kiryat Shmona rode its luck and remained in the match thanks to goalkeeper Danny Amos’s heroics before completing a comeback in the second half.
After advancing towards Haifa’s box unchallenged, Darko Tasevski found the bottom right corner with a left-footed bullet from 20 meters out to equalize in the 53rd minute and the reigning champion clinched the win with two late goals.
Laszlo Lencse coolly slotted in a penalty in the 75th minute after Taleb Tawatha brought down Elad Gabai and Haifa’s shambolic defense allowed Ahmed Abed to secure Kiryat Shmona’s second consecutive win nine minutes from time.
“We played well, but missed our chances and after they equalized we lost our patience,” said a disappointed Atar, who is looking forward to the upcoming international break to lift his team.
“We will keep our heads held high and find a way to stop this losing streak.”
Kiryat Shmona coach Gili Landau was delighted with his team’s win, especially considering it was playing its fourth match in 11 days after being knocked out in the Champions League playoffs last week.
“We were Dr. Jekyll in the first half and Mr. Hyde in the second,” said Landau.
“We are still not playing at our best and there’s plenty of room for improvement, but we are going home content.”
Ashdod SC leads Kiryat Shmona on goal difference at the top of the standings after beating Bnei Sakhnin 3-1 on the road for its second straight win.
The Sakhnin defense couldn’t cope with David Revivo’s free kick in the 24th minute and Ashsod clinched the win by the break with Dimitar Makriev scoring twice (27, 39) in his return to the club.
Mohammed Kalibat netted a consolation for the hosts in the 47th minute, but Ashdod had little trouble holding on for another win.
Betar Jerusalem picked up its first point of the season on Saturday, drawing 1-1 with Hapoel Beersheba at Teddy Stadium.
Eli Dasa scored a sensational opener for Betar with his left foot after cutting into the box from the right flank five minutes from the break, but Tomer Swisa gave Beersheba a deserved point with a clinical finish in the 52nd minute.
Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon picked up their first wins of 2011/12 on Saturday.
Pedro Galvan scored Bnei Yehuda’s winner in the 77th minute of its match against Hapoel Ramat Gan, while Ran Itzhak (25), Hristijan Kirovski (66) and Savity Lipenia (73) canceled out Ohad Kadusi’s (20) opener to give Ramat Hasharon a 3-1 home win over Hapoel Acre.
On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Acre, while Maccabi Tel Aviv faces Maccabi Netanya on Monday.