Ben-Basat, Hapoel Haifa aim to main­tain un­beaten start

Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS - R #Z "--0/ 4*/"* PREMIER LEAGUE GP W D L PD Pts

When Eden Ben-Basat re­turned to Is­rael a lit­tle over three years ago he was widely re­garded as one of the best play­ers in the coun­try.

Af­ter three suc­cess­ful sea­sons in France and be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of the Is­rael na­tional team, Ben-Basat was lured back home by a lu­cra­tive of­fer from Mac­cabi Tel Aviv, which paid Toulouse in the re­gion of 750,000 eu­ros for his ser­vices.

He was at the prime of his ca­reer and seemed set to fi­nally make his mark on the lo­cal scene in a big way. But in­stead, Ben-Basat would com­pletely lose his way at Mac­cabi.

There were sev­eral high­lights in his first sea­son in yel­low-and-blue, with Ben-Basat scor­ing six goals in 24 ap­pear­ances in 2014/15 in which Mac­cabi won an un­prece­dented lo­cal tre­ble.

Mat­ters would go dra­mat­i­cally down­hill af­ter that though, with Ben-Basat net­ting two goals in 22 games in 2015/16 and a sin­gle goal in the first half of last sea­son, fall­ing com­pletely out of fa­vor with the team’s coach­ing staff.

In an at­tempt to res­ur­rect his ca­reer, Ben-Basat joined Hapoel Haifa in Jan­uary of this year. He found the back of the net twice in 15 games to end last sea­son, bring­ing his tally over the past two sea­sons to a measly five league goals.

He needed just four games to match that to­tal this sea­son, with Ben-Basat fi­nally look­ing like the player of old, de­spite re­cently celebrating his 31st birth­day.

Ben-Basat’s pro­lific form is one of the main rea­sons be­hind Haifa’s sur­pris­ing start to the cam­paign that sees it lead the stand­ings with a three-point gap af­ter six matches.

Nir Klinger’s Haifa is the league’s only re­main­ing un­beaten team, de­feat­ing Ironi Kiryat Sh­mona 1-0 be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break to move to 14 points from a pos­si­ble 18.

Haifa hosts Hapoel Acre on Satur­day, with Ben-Basat set to be back in the squad af­ter miss­ing the win in Kiryat Sh­mona through in­jury.

“I didn’t man­age to dis­play my best form in re­cent years, but I’m happy I fi­nally found a place where I feel com­fort­able and have all the sup­port I need,” said Ben-Basat af­ter net­ting a hat-trick against Beitar Jerusalem, the first time he scored three goals in a match since March 2010.

Two-time reign­ing cham­pion Hapoel Beer­sheba has won just two of its first five matches, but de­spite its medi­ocre start and hav­ing played one game fewer than its ri­vals, is only six points be­hind Haifa and three back of main chal­lenger Mac­cabi Tel Aviv. Beer­sheba looks to kick­start its sea­son when it visits Hapoel Ra’anana on Satur­day.

Ra’anana has picked up just a sin­gle point so far this sea­son.

Also Satur­day, Mac­cabi Haifa goes to Mac­cabi Pe­tah Tikva and Amir Turge­man will guide rock-bot­tom Ash­dod SC for the first time when it hosts Hapoel Ashkelon.

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