Soccer / Premier League / Maccabi Haifa, post-Atar, Looks Lackluster in Draw With Sakhnin

Maccabi Haifa legend Reuven Atar may have vacated the spot of head coach, but the team played little better yesterday under interim coach Arik Benado, playing at home to a scoreless draw against Bnei Sakhnin.

Three images of Atar in a Maccabi Haifa uniform decorated the fence separating Section 3 and the path that encircles Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, near the Maccabi Haifa bench. Neon-colored cardboard posters portraying the franchise hero in his youth replaced the image of the downtrodden, expressionless coach who stood on the sidelines just a week earlier. Atar was reduced from flesh-and-blood to the pages of Maccabi Haifa's glorious history.

The action on the field gave no indication that there would be any return to glory this season in the wake of Atar's departure.

Benado, wearing the club's black sweatpants, looked like a temporary placeholder while owner Yaakov Shahar keeps negotiating to bring in Ran Ben Shimon, who worked magic at Kiryat Shmona but now leads the way at APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus.

Strikers Yaniv Katan and Dino Ndlovu as well as midfielders Idan Vered and Eyal Golasa looked, especially in the first half, like a bunch that desperately needs outside intervention. The only chances on goal they created - two kicks from afar by Katan and another ricochet by Ndlovu - failed to make Sakhnin goalkeeper Mahmud Kannadil's heart skip. Their shots seemed more random than planned.

The second half started off no better, and the nearest the game came to excitement was in injury time, when Bnei Sakhnin broke free and nearly scored the winning goal.

"We looked organized but we lacked a crushing blow," said Benado after the game. "Sakhnin played good defense, but I am proud of the guys. I came for just three days because of the negotiations with Ran Ben Shimon, and I'll happily accept whatever decision is made."