After long layoff, league action resumes

April 1, 2016 02:17
2 minute read.
Roei Kehat

Ironi Kiryat Shmona midfielder Roei Kehat netted his first career hat-trick Sunday night to lead his team to a 3-1 win over Hapoel Beersheba. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

Despite its mediocre budget and small fan base, Ironi Kiryat Shmona has become accustomed to challenging for titles.

With four trophies in the past six years, including an historic Premier League championship in 2011/12, and a five-year run of finishing no lower than fifth in the league standings, Kiryat Shmona entered this season as confident as ever.

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However, with only six matches remaining in the campaign, the northerners find themselves in serious danger of being demoted to the National League after losing five of their past six games, failing to score a goal during that stretch.

The hiring of Shlomi Dora in place of Salah Hasarma in February has done the team little good, with Kiryat Shmona still searching for its first goal under his guidance, losing the past three matches to leave it only three points above Hapoel Haifa and the relegation zone.

Kiryat Shmona has an ideal opportunity to kick-start its campaign on Saturday when it hosts the sorry Maccabi Netanya, with Premier League action returning after the top-tier Israeli clubs had a break of almost two weeks.

Netanya is in complete disarray and could already be officially relegated this weekend.

Head coach Menahem Koretzki followed in the footsteps of chairman Doron Osidon and left the club last Saturday, writing to the Netanya Municipality, which is in charge of the running of the club following Osidon’s resignation last week, that due to the current uncertainty he has decided to quit.

Koretzki only joined the team two months ago, picking up just one of a possible 24 points after losing seven matches and registering one draw, leaving Netanya 17 points from safety.

“We know we still have our fate in our hands but this is a situation which can change,” said Dora. “We need to do our job and not wait for favors from other teams.”

On Sunday, Hapoel Haifa (25 points), which is winless in nine matches, hosts Hapoel Kfar Saba (29).

Hapoel Tel Aviv (30) and Hapoel Acre (32) look to take another step towards securing their survival when they meet at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday, with Bnei Yehuda (36) welcoming Maccabi Petah Tikva (33).

Also Saturday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Bnei Sakhnin in the championship playoffs.

Sakhnin was punished on Wednesday to host two matches away from Doha Stadium due to the unruly behavior of its supporters in the game against Beitar Jerusalem earlier this month.

Sakhnin was unhappy with the Israel Football Association disciplinary court’s ruling, but may choose not to appeal as the punishment will actually allow it to increase its income by hosting Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba at Haifa Stadium, which seats almost four times as many spectators as Doha.

The battle for the title resumes on Sunday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is one point back of Hapoel Beesheba, hosting Hapoel Ra’anana.

Beersheba visits Beitar Jerusalem on Monday.

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