Maccabi Haifa FC embarked upon their UEFA Europa League campaign with a 1-0 win against Group J rivals AEK Larnaca FC thanks to Mohammad Ghadir's second-half header.
The home side were rewarded for their territorial supremacy nine minutes after the break when Talb Twatha's delightful cross was met by Ghadir, who made no mistake from close range.
Yaniv Katan and Twatha provided much of the attacking inspiration for the Israeli champions as the hosts dominated from the outset. They created their first opportunity when Twatha was released down the left; his delicate cross was met by Idan Vered, whose effort was deflected agonisingly wide. The impressive Katan then set up Vered, but his powerful strike was well handled by Marco Fortin.
AEK Larnaca saw little of the ball but did create chances, with their first opening coming from a sweet Gregor van Dijk free-kick. The hosts failed to clear their lines and the ball fell invitingly for Ander Murillo, who fired just wide with the goalkeeper stranded.
After the break, a cute back-heel from AEK Larnaca's Miljan Mrdaković's set up Edwin Linssen, only for the Dutch midfielder to miss the target after snatching at his shot. At the other end, Katan almost doubled his side's advantage with a shot that stung Fortin's fingertips.
The visitors threatened to draw level when Eyal Meshumar inadvertently turned Njongo Priso's cross towards goal before scampering to clear off the line. However, the writing was on the wall for the Cypriot side when, with eight minutes remaining, Murillo was dismissed for his challenge on Marlon De Jesus.
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