Atar ready to return to Maccabi Netanya

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March 19, 2013 01:11

After sacking Banin for team’s struggles, Netanya taps former coach for fourth comeback.

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Reuven Atar

atar370. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

Reuven Atar is set to return to Maccabi Netanya for his fourth tenure at the club following the sacking of coach Tal Banin on Monday.

Netanya dropped into the relegation zone after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Hapoel Haifa, its sixth straight match without a win.

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Banin insisted on Saturday that he had no intention of leaving the club, but he was forced out less than 48 hours later, with general manager Mordechai Spiegler also announcing his departure.

“It doesn’t matter if I quit or if I was sacked,” said Banin. “The only important thing at the moment is that the team remains in the Premier League.

I’m continuing to do what is best for the team, as well as what is best for myself.”

Atar, who first guided Netanya in the 2003/04 season and left the club last summer for Maccabi Haifa, said he is willing to take charge of the team until the end of the season and help it battle against relegation.

However, Atar, who was sacked by Haifa in November, is still on the club’s payroll and the Greens are not willing to continue and compensate him while he’s coaching Netanya.

“After 10 successful years at the club I feel the obligation to help Netanya in the battle against relegation,” said Atar, who doesn’t want to commit to the club beyond this season.

“I have no interest in earning a shekel more than I currently make.”

Netanya will have to come to an agreement with Haifa to secure the services of Atar, who is reluctant to forgo the full salary he is owed by the Greens for the 2013/14 season, assuming he doesn’t join another team.

Also Monday, the draw for the State Cup semifinals was made at Israel Football Association headquarters at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.

Maccabi Haifa, which last won the cup in 1998, will face Ironi Kiryat Shmona in a showdown between the two strongest teams remaining in the competition, while 2003 winner Hapoel Ramat Gan plays Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League.

Both semis will be played in Ramat Gan on April 17.

“We have reached the final several times in recent years, but haven’t managed to lift the cup,” said Haifa captain Yaniv Katan a day after helping his team close within 10 points of Maccabi Tel Aviv at the top of the Premier League standings with a 1-0 win over Bnei Yehuda.

“Kiryat Shmona is an excellent team, but we are no pushovers either. To finish the season with the cup and the runners-up position would be a nice achievement considering the campaign we have experienced.”

National team begins preparations for Portugal

The Israel squad assembled for the first time on Monday at the national team complex in Shefayim ahead of Friday’s crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier versus Portugal in Ramat Gan.

Israel moved up to second place in Group F ahead of Portugal on goal difference with two emphatic victories over the weak Luxembourg in October, but it will have little chance of a top-two finish should it fail to defeat Cristiano Ronaldo and friends before visiting Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

“We haven’t talked about Ronaldo yet,” revealed RCD Mallorca striker Tomer Hemed, who dropped to a 5-2 defeat to the Portuguese superstar and Real Madrid in La Liga action on Saturday. “He won on Saturday, but I hope that I will win on Friday.”

Hemed added that Israel is targeting a victory on Friday.

“I’m certain that we can compete with them,” said Hemed. “I will not settle for a 0-0 draw. I want to win.”


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