Hapoel Tel Aviv looks to quell turmoil with win vs Netanya

January 20, 2012 03:49

Hapoel’s title hopes have completely evaporated over the past six weeks, with the Reds falling 12 points behind the streaking Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

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Hapoel Tel Aviv's Omer Damari

Hapoel Tel Aviv's Omer Damari 311. (photo credit: Reuters )

With the club seemingly falling apart around them, Hapoel Tel Aviv players will be looking to steady the ship and take a first step back towards normalcy when they host Maccabi Netanya on Saturday.

Hapoel’s title hopes have completely evaporated over the past six weeks, with the Reds falling 12 points behind the streaking Ironi Kiryat Shmona after winning just once in their last seven matches, losing 3-0 at Hapoel Haifa on Monday in their first game under new coach Nitzan Shirazi following Dror Kashtan’s sacking.

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However, it is the turmoil off the pitch that is really worrying Hapoel fans, with the club’s chairman, CEO and press officer resigning simultaneously on Sunday in protest of owner Eli Tabib’s running of the club.

The vast majority of Tel Aviv supporters were never fond of Tabib, and after discovering how rotten things had become under his leadership, they have intensified their protests.

Tires were burned outside the club’s training ground on Thursday and signs calling for Tabib to leave were hung at the Hodorov complex and near the owner’s house in Tel Aviv, although he has been away on business in Miami, Florida all week.

“It is legitimate to protest, even if I’m the target,” Tabib wrote in a letter to the fans on Thursday. “Nevertheless, I hope that the fans remember that at the end of the day there is a team and players, who are going through a rough period, and the most important thing is to support them.”

A return to winning ways against Netanya at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday will help Tabib in his attempts to pacify the protest against him, and considering Reuven Atar’s men have won just one of their past seven road games, Hapoel should have a golden opportunity to notch its first victory under Shirazi.

Hapoel seemed to be Kiryat Shmona’s main rival for the title, but the disarray at the club has played into the hands of the northerners, who hold an eight-point gap over Ashdod SC after winning nine of their last 10 matches.

Kiryat Shmona hosts Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on Saturday, while Ashdod faces a tricky tie at Teddy Stadium against Betar Jerusalem, which has won its last two matches.

Betar will have one eye on the encounter between the two teams placed just below it in the standings, with Hapoel Beersheba hosting Hapoel Haifa in a crucial showdown in the battle against relegation.

Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva welcomes Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Petah Tikva visits Hapoel Acre.

Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Rishon Lezion on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Haifa on Monday.

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