Sinai Says: The new Benayoun? Golasa strives to make his mark

Sinai Says The new Bena

Eyal Golasa is still a week short of his 18th birthday, but he will have a crucial role to play if Maccabi Haifa is to achieve the success it craves in the near future. And this starts in Bordeaux on Wednesday, The creative midfielder made his breakthrough last season, appearing in 27 of Haifa's 33 Premier League matches, playing a supporting role in the team's run to the championship. Golasa remained a substitute at the start of this season, but has become a staple in Elisha Levy's starting lineup since coming off the bench in Haifa's dramatic 4-3 comeback victory over Kazakh champion FK Aktobe on August 4. Haifa was down 3-0 after just 15 minutes of the return leg of the Champions League third qualifying round against Aktobe. With the team still trailing 3-1 in the 31st minute Levy turned to Golasa. After only three minutes on the pitch, Golasa found the back of the net and he went on to play an instrumental part in the team's surge to victory and eventual qualification to the group stage. Golasa impressed in both matches against Red Bull Salzburg in the final qualifying round, scoring his second continental goal in the second leg, and was also one of the best player's on the pitch in Maccabi's group stage opener against Bayern Munich two weeks ago, running some 12.1 kilometers throughout the encounter, more than any other Haifa or Bayern player. Golasa's role model is Israel captain and Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun, and he actually resembles him in many ways. Besides wearing the same number 15 shirt Benayoun wore while playing at Haifa between 1998 and 2002, Golasa also joined the Greens as a teenager, leaving the youth academy of Betar Nes Tubrok with his twin brother Orel last summer to sign a long term contract at the club. Like Benayoun, who spent one year at the Ajax youth department in Amsterdam as a 15-year-old, Golasa also tried his luck in Europe as a teenager, getting valuable experience while on trial at teams including Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint Germain. More importantly, however, Golasa possesses Benayoun's fearless approach to the game. Similarly to Benayoun, the 1.73-meter Golasa is far from impressive at first sight, but when at full flow he is a joy to watch and a nightmare to defend. The ball often looks as if it is glued to his feet when he easily dribbles past defenders and his outstanding vision on the pitch is apparent for all to see when he picks out his teammates with pin-point passes. Golasa still has a long way to go before he can be crowned as the next Benayoun, but the early signs are certainly encouraging. Ex-Manchester City and Maccabi Haifa star Eyal Berkovic has even been quoted as saying that Golasa reminds him of England and Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard. "He is a perfect player. He does everything on the pitch and does it well," said Berkovic, who rarely flatters players, especially to such an extent. Haifa will need Golasa to be at his very best on Wednesday, with his excellent fitness and surges forward vital in a match in which the Israelis are expected to be put under pressure for long periods. At the moment, however, even Golasa does not know how well he can actually play. We have only seen glimpses of his remarkable talent in recent months, with surely so much still to come. There is something special about watching a young talent realizing his potential, growing with every match he plays. Thanks to Golasa, Israeli soccer fans everywhere have been granted this pleasurable privilege. Not knowing what Golasa is capable of means every match he plays in is that more thrilling to watch, and makes Wednesday's encounter at Bordeaux especially exciting.