Daniel De Ridder lasted just 16 minutes in his Hapoel Tel Aviv debut, a goalless draw against defending champions Maccabi Haifa on Monday.
Having joined on loan from Wigan last week, De Ridder came off the bench in the 66th minute at Kiryat Eliezer but had to be substituted eight minutes from time, needing five stitches after a clash of heads with Maccabi’s John Culma.
De Ridder expects to be fit for the weekend game against Maccabi Netanya.
The midfielder’s move to Hapoel nearly collapsed after the player refused to take Israeli citizenship, even though he had told Israeli journalists that he was happy to “come home”.
Israeli teams are only allowed five foreign players and the club was eager for the former Ajax and Birmingham star, who has an Israeli mother and speaks fluent Hebrew, not to be counted among its foreign quota. But when it became clear that De Ridder, who does not want to serve in the army would not compromise on the matter, Hapoel backed down.
The draw left Maccabi 10 points clear of Hapoel. However, under a new complex system in the revamped 16 team league, the team’s points will be halved after the 30 home and away games, and then the top six teams will play each other once in the final month of the season.
Maccabi Ahi Nazareth earned their first win under new manager John Gregory but remain bottom on goal difference.