Giovanni Rosso yesterday led Maccabi Haifa to a 3-1 victory over his former team Maccabi Tel Aviv at Haifa's Kiryat Eliezer stadium.
Tensions heated up before the match began when police arrested supporters from both teams, who participated in a brawl en route to the stadium. Current Chelsea manager and former Maccabi Haifa coach Avraham Grant was in the stands to watch the match and received a warm round of applause from the local crowd. Also in attendance was Jewish American defender Jonathan Bernstein, who is considering a move to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
After the kickoff, Maccabi Tel Aviv had the upper hand in the first minutes of the game. Tel Aviv team missed a number of fantastic opportunities that they would deeply regret later on. Indeed, it was Haifa that claimed the first goal of the night in the 17th minute when a precise corner kick found Rosso wide open near the goal. The Croatian had no difficulties kicking it past the goalie.
Tel Aviv's defense continued to blunder, allowing the players in green to score a second goal in the 29th minute. Tel Aviv tried to clear a ball in its own penalty area, but the ball found its way to Omri Afek, who shot precisely. Nir Levin looked worried at the performance of his players. Only 12 minutes later, Tel Aviv struck back with a goal by Yossi Shivhon, 2-1 to Haifa. The second half opened with a fluster of attacks from both sides, but with very little precision.
After the 70th minute Maccabi became desperate to score an equalizer and took control of the match. But again it was Haifa who scored in the 87th minute, securing the team's victory.
Substitute Oshri Gita initiated a double pass that put him in front of the goal, from where he shot into the net, 3-1 to Haifa.
During the '90s, the matches between Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv used to be the highlight of the Israeli soccer season. In 1992, 50,000 fans packed the Ramat Gan stadium to watch the two teams that competed closely for the championship. That game ended in a goal-less draw, yet the second encounter between them that season resulted in Haifa's remarkable 5-0 victory
Also yesterday, Maccabi Petah Tikva officials said they believed Zambia international soccer player Clifford Mulenga received an offer to play for a team in the Spanish league and would not play for the Israeli club. Mulenga has apparently delayed his arrival to Israel because of a rival offer. In response, Maccabi Petah Tikva said they are interested in signing Maccabi Haifa's Shlomi Arbeitman as a replacement.
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