Yellow-and-blue overcomes Greens to open

Dabbur’s double the difference as Cruyff’s Mac TA earns 2-1 victory over Mac Haifa.

FORWARD MUNAS DABBUR 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The Oscar Garcia-Jordi Cruyff era at Maccabi Tel Aviv got off to a promising start on Monday night when the yellow-and-blue defeated Maccabi Haifa 2-1 in a thrilling encounter at Bloomfield Stadium thanks to a Munas Dabbur brace.
There had been much anticipation to see what the rebuilt Tel Aviv would look like under new sports director Cruyff and Spanish coach Oscar, and the early signs exhibited on Monday couldn’t really have been any more encouraging.
Oscar will be the first to admit that his team still needs plenty of work, but he couldn’t have asked for any more than a win over Haifa to begin the Premier League season, and while his side’s defensive play was flawed at times, the yellow-and-blue showed real promise when going forward.
Haifa coach Reuven Atar surely hoped for a better debut as Greens coach, but he at least can draw some confidence from the many scoring opportunities his team created, led by impressive debutant Hen Ezra, who netted the equalizer with an exquisite volley.
Ezra’s goal in the 38th minute canceled out Dabbur’s sixth-minute strike, but Tel Aviv’s 20-year-old forward had the last laugh when he netted what proved to be the winner with his head 10 minutes into the second half.
The match burst into life after just five minutes, with Dabbur gliding through one of the many gaps in Haifa’s defense, only to fluff his shot with just ‘keeper Nir Davidovitch to beat.
However, one minute later his miss became a distant memory when he once more found himself in a tempting position and this time also made the most of it, slotting in the opener.
Tel Aviv fans were still celebrating the goal when Ezra came centimeters from equalizing, rattling the crossbar less than two minutes after the breakthrough with his bullet from 20 meters out.
Haifa looked to penetrate the Tel Aviv defense through Idan Vered down the right flank, but his inaccuracy cost the visitors time and again.
The Greens should have found themselves two goals down in the 26th minute, but fortunately for Atar’s men Gonzalo Garcia fired straight at Davidovitch.
Haifa’s defense was constantly being embarrassed, but Tel Aviv’s was not much better and the equalizer arrived seven minutes from the break.
Vered found Ezra with plenty of space in the box and the new signing from Maccabi Netanya showed what all the hype was about with a splendid volley which left Tel Aviv’s new ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama with no chance.
Surely both coaches had a word with their players regarding their defensive play at the break, but it didn’t show, with both teams continuing to create chances almost at will.
Enyeama denied Ezra his second goal five minutes into the second half and five minutes later Dabbur put the yellow-and-blue back in front at the other end.
Substitute Rafi Dahan did all the hard work down the right flank, leaving Dabbur with the simple task of heading in his second goal of the night from close range.