Haifa in dire straits after Mac PT defeat

Matters keep going from bad to worse for Greens; Beersheba remains in touch at the top with Acre win

February 1, 2015 02:50
2 minute read.
Marco Balbul

Maccabi Haifa coach Marco Balbul. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

There is still no end in a sight to the crisis at Maccabi Haifa after the Greens suffered a Premier League-high 11th defeat to the season on Saturday, while Hapoel Beersheba kept alive its lingering title hopes with a 3-0 win over Hapoel Acre.

Daniel Dimov’s 34th-minute winner gave Maccabi Petah Tikva a 1-0 victory against Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium, resulting in an uncharacteristic dressing room outburst by owner Jacob Shachar after the match.

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“This is disgusting, I’m ashamed. I haven’t seen anything like this in my 23 years at the club,” Shachar told the players. “We have 18,000 season-ticket holders, a new stadium, and only the team is weak. I will notify players of their release from the club on Sunday.”

Haifa’s 11th defeat of the season, tied for the most in the league with rock-bottom Hapoel Acre, leaves it in ninth place, just five points off the relegation zone. Since replacing Aleksandar Stanojevic as coach, Marco Balbul has led Haifa to just a single win from five matches, with the Greens also being knocked out in the State Cup round of 16 on Wednesday.

“We are not good enough and we now need to do all we can to escape the relegation battle,” said Haifa captain Yossi Benayoun. “You can’t blame the coaches for the way we are playing. The players are the ones to blame. We are a bottom team at the moment and we need to start playing like one. We are mixed up in the battle against relegation and the sooner we understand that the better.”

Beersheba moved within five points of the summit after scoring three second-half goals against Acre. Roei Gordana’s strike (64) was sandwiched between Shlomi Arbeitman’s brace (55, 75) and Beersheba will be crossing its fingers the top two drop points on Sunday and Monday.

Second-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona visits Beitar Jerusalem on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby on Monday night.

“It was difficult to recover from our midweek cup game, which makes this win so important,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy. “This was a must-win game for us and it leaves us in a good position in the league as well as the cup.”

Beersheba will discover who it faces next in the cup when the draw for the quarterfinals will be held on Sunday.

Or Baruch’s dramatic stoppage-time equalizer gave Maccabi Netanya a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Petah Tikva and an important point in the fight against relegation.

Netanya moved up to fifth place after Baruch’s strike canceled out Guy Dayan’s (13) opener, but Roni Levy’s team is still only three points ahead of 12th place.

Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin picked up three important points with a 2-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa. A superb solo effort by Mohammad Ghadir put the hosts ahead in the 88th minute and Ismaeel Ryan clinched the win in stoppage time.

Monday’s Tel Aviv derby will be the first meeting between the teams since their showdown in November, which had to be stopped in the first half after a Hapoel fan ran onto the pitch and assaulted Maccabi midfielder Eran Zahavi.

Maccabi quickly bounced back, winning nine of 12 matches, going unbeaten in its past 10 games. Hapoel won its two contests following the derby, but has since gone winless in 10 matches, resulting in coach Asi Domb’s sacking last week and the appointment of Eli Cohen.

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