Maccabi Haifa 3-1 Kiryat Shemona
Maccabi Haifa’s first Israel league match was sandwiched between the first and second leg of UEFA Europa League playoff matches with Astra of Romania but they managed to come out on top in good form with a victory over Kiryat Shemona.
Haifa manager Arik Benado decided to mix his lineup up with the insertion of Shmuel Sheiman & Ran Abucrat for Taleb Tawatha & Gustavo Boculi respectively. Without Boculi controlling the midfield to begin the match & Tawatha making his fast runs down the sidelines, Haifa’s new star Ruben Rayos was left alone trying to push the ball forward for the greens and seemed to be handcuffed every time he came within a millimeter of the ball Adrian Rotchet and company.
However, Boculi did come on in the latter stage of the match and at the age of 35 was still able to change up a game more than almost anyone else playing in the Israeli league. Stealing the ball at midfield, he craftily went in on Guy Haimov, the Kiryat Shemona ‘keeper and slotted home the game clincher to wrap up the three points with a 3-1 home win.
Haifa also received goals from a Hen Ezra curling strike from the top left side of the box to the top right hand side of the goal leaving Haimov without a chance to make a play on the perfectly struck ball. The home side also saw Alon Turgeman the one time Beitar Jerusalem property score in the second half on a perfectly placed pass by Shimon Abuheizera.
Kiryat Shemona played well at times and controlled the play at various points of both halves as David Manga coming in from Ramat Gan made an impressive debut with a thread the needle pass to Moshe Abutbol for K8’s lone goal.
Benado is smart to begin stretching his roster and bench and will need to do so if Haifa advances to the UEFA Europa League group stages. With Idan Vered, Avichay Yadin, Shmuel Sheiman & Ran Abucrat all seeing minutes early on in the season one can sense that Benado will have a deep pool of players to choose from as he does battle at domestically and in Europe should Haifa take their 2-0 home victory in the 1st leg of the EL playoffs with Astra of Romania.
It was clear that Ran Abucrat still will need time acclimating to the green side of Haifa and the same can be said about the others who saw the pitch for the first time. Benado seems to have his finger on the pulse of the club since he took over from Reuven Atar early last season and the European test will be a good litmus point for his and the team’s progress.