After an opening eight weeks that found Maccabi Haifa near the Ligat Ha’Al basement with a measly 2-0-6 record, the Greens have gone a league-best 4-1-1 over their past six games, steadily climbing into fourth place. Haifa drew against Bnei Sakhnin 1:1 on Saturday, and will be hoping for a good result on Saturday when they host Beitar Yerushalayim at the Sammy Ofer.
Haifa grabbed the lead at Doha Stadium in Sakhnin on Saturday in the 71st minute, as Bosnian defender Edin Cocalic netted his first goal of the season, but a goal in stoppage time by Sakhnin’s Serbian striker Milan Bojovic left Maccabi with one point instead of three. In a league where every point matters when it comes to European qualification, those two points might prove costly.
As disappointing as that game was, though, it came on the heels of an exceptionally satisfying 4:0 drubbing of cross-town rivals Hapoel Haifa on December 14 in a Haifa Derby. Yossi Benayoun notched an early goal for Maccabi in the 4th minute, and the Yarokim never looked back, scoring in the 44th minute, 75th minute, and the 81st minute en route to the easy win. While Maccabi might have gotten off to a slow start, to the glee of any died-in-the-wool Maccabi fan, Hapoel is in the midst of yet another dismal campaign, proud owners of both second-to-last place in the standings and the league’s worst goal differential: -17 after 14 games.
The work is far from complete though, as Maccabi are six points behind Hapoel Be’er Sheva (who they face at home on January 31), 11 behind Maccabi Tel Aviv (coming to town on January 11), and 13 points back from top-of-the-table Hapoel Kiryat Shmonah (away on March 6). To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and Maccabi will keep moving up the table only if they do just that.