Hapoel Haifa began their season on the right foot with a 2-0 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv at Sammy Ofer Stadium by the Carmel Mountain. Nir Klinger’s squad has a very disappointing preseason and looked to be in trouble while Kobi Refuah’s team has been in fine form entering the new campaign, but the tables were turned as the curtain was raised to begin play. Dudu Twito opened the scoring as he beat a helpless Stefan Marinovic from inside the box for a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute while Shoval Gozlan doubled the advantage deep inside second half injury time to take the 3-points.
“It’s always exciting to begin a new season and we got off to a good start,” Kilnger said. “This was positive and we knew how to take this game but I don’t want to get too excited with the win. We will keep our feet to the ground but all in all this was a nice win over a good team.”
“This is part of soccer,” a disappointed Kobi Refuah commented after the game. “We knew how they would play and that is their right to do so and they won. We didn’t have an attempt in the second half and we played slowly and this was the result. We have to play fast on the wings and we didn’t do that.”
Maccabi Netanya dominated Beitar Jerusalem 4-1 as Igor Zlatanovic scored a hat-trick at the Netanya Stadium as Benny Lam’s team snatched the points. After thirty minutes of play, Gil Itzhak broke the ice to get the hosts on the board who then quickly went up 2-0 when Zlatanovic scored off a defensive error by Max Grechkin.
Danilo Asprilla pulled a goal back to cut the lead to 2-1 but just ahead of the break Zlatanovic scored again as he went around Grenchkin with ease to score his second of the first half. Zlatanovic completed his hat-trick with a 68th minute penalty to take the win and the 3-points.
“This was just an average game for us and I expected a bit more from my team despite scoring 4 goals,” Netanya coach Benny Lam said. “I always believed in Zlatanovic as he kept working hard. He is a striker of the highest level and knows how to score when even the opportunity.”
“We knew it was going to be tough and we aren’t ready for the season,” a disappointed Beitar coach Yossi Abuksis began. :We made some horrible mistakes defensively and we paid the price for every one of those mistakes. Netanya is a very good team and intelligent with their play. I’m very disappointed with the players due to their errors.”
Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Hadera drew 1-1 at the Moshava Stadium due to an electrical issue at Teddy Stadium. Jordan Botaka gave the capital city reds the lead in the 20th minute, but a second half own goal by Nadav Nidam on a poor clearance found its way into the Jerusalem net as each team took a point.
“We’re very disappointed,” Jerusalem coach Ziv Arie began. “We needed to win this game where we could have taken advantage of our good first half but then gave up a laughable own goal. I want the club to play well, take points and bring joy to our fans who made their way to see us outside of the city.”
“We are still searching for our identity after beginning the season,” Hadera’s new coach Asaf Nimni said. “The result really is a reflection of the game itself as we didn’t play well in the first half but in the second we were much better and aggressive. We will take it one game str a time and next week we have Maccabi Tel Aviv which will be another challenge.”