Hapoel knows it must pick up the pace to contend
By ALLON SINAI
There has rarely been a dull moment at Hapoel Tel Aviv this season.
There has rarely been a dull moment at Hapoel Tel Aviv this
Despite experiencing a tumultuous off-season in which the club was
eventually purchased by former member of Knesset Haim Ramon, Hapoel entered the
campaign with what is on paper one of the strongest squads in the
However, the club was rocked yet again in September when coach
Nitzan Shirazi was forced to take a leave of absence after falling seriously
ill, with Israel assistant coach Yossi Abuksis eventually taking his
The Reds have seldom impressed in the Premier League since and
didn’t even come close to challenging for a place in the Europa League
round-of-32, finishing last in Group B.
Nevertheless, Hapoel enters
Saturday’s match against Hapoel Ramat Gan at Bloomfield Stadium trailing
league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv only on goal difference.
Five of Hapoel’s
nine wins have come by a single goal, including four 1-0 victories, with
Abuksis’s men eking out three points with mediocre performances time and
However, Abuksis knows that his side won’t be able to do so for
much longer and will require a significant improvement to mount a serious
challenge for the title.
Hapoel’s poor play cost it dearly on Monday,
with Hapoel Acre holding the Reds to a goalless deadlock at Bloomfield, snapping
their four-game winning streak.
But with attacking options of the likes
of Toto Tamuz, Omer Damari, Tal Ben- Haim and Gili Vermut, a midfield which
includes Eric Djemba Djemba and one of the season’s breakthrough players in
Hanan Maman, as well as arguably the league’s best goalkeeper in Apoula Edel,
Hapoel clearly has massive promise.
The fact it is only kept off the top
of the standings by two goals despite its struggles is promising news for
Hapoel, assuming it shows some real progress soon, preferably starting with
Saturday’s game against Ramat Gan.
Hapoel will climb to first place for
at least 48 hours should it avoid defeat at Bloomfield, with Maccabi Tel Aviv
not visiting Maccabi Haifa until Monday.
Ashdod SC enters the weekend
just three points behind the top two after defeating Hapoel Acre 2-0 on
Wednesday from two Nir Biton goals in a match which was postponed due to
Operation Pillar of Defense.
Ashdod will hope to remain within striking
distance of first place with a win at Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya, which has lost four of five
matches, hosts rock-bottom Hapoel Haifa, which has won just once all
Elsewhere, Hapoel Beersheba goes for its fourth consecutive
victory when it visits Bnei Sakhnin.
On Sunday, Betar Jerusalem hosts
Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Bnei Yehuda welcomes Acre.