Ironi Kiryat Shmona and coach Gili Landau unexpectedly parted ways on Wednesday
as the team made its final preparations to host French powerhouse Olympique Lyon
in its second Europa League Group I match on Thursday.
surprisingly appointed by owner Izzy Sheratzky to guide the team in place of Ran
Ben-Shimon ahead of this season, but his short tenure ended in acrimony on
“Due to personal and fundamental differences, which are not
professional or financial, Izzy Sheratzky and Gili Landau mutually decided to
part ways,” a Kiryat Shmona press release read.
Just last Thursday,
Sheratzky wrote a letter to the fans, published on the club’s website, claiming
that Kiryat Shmona is experiencing its best ever season.
Ben-Shimon’s big shoes to fill after Kiryat Shmona won an historic championship
last season, Landau quickly settled at the club and the team came tantalizingly
close to qualifying for the Champions League group stage, losing to BATE Borisov
in the playoffs.
Nevertheless, it still secured a berth in the Europa
League group stage and recorded a commendable 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao in its
first group game two weeks ago.
After winning its first two Premier
League matches, Kiryat Shmona picked up just a single point from its past three
games, but the reason for the split is believed to be the growing rift between
Landau and several of the players.
Landau refused to go into details
regarding his departure on Wednesday.
“We are on the eve of an important
match against Lyon and therefore I will postpone my response until
This is an excellent chance to wish the team good luck in the
match,” Landau said.
Landau’s assistant and former Kiryat Shmona player
Barak Bachar will guide the team against Lyon at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in Haifa
Bachar claimed to be surprised by the latest developments,
but neither he nor captain Salah Hasarma seemed to be too upset about Landau’s
exit when speaking in Wednesday’s press conference.
“Both I and the
players were surprised to hear the news,” Bachar said.
“I am the coach
for the moment and I’m feeling good. I’ve been at this club as a player and a
coach for the past nine years and this is an excellent opportunity for me to
give something back to the club.”
Bachar doesn’t believe Landau’s
departure will have any effect on the team’s preparations for
“We are extremely ready for this match and Gili leaving
shouldn’t have any influence,” Bachar said. “I have an excellent relationship
with Gili. He allowed me to do a lot in training and really trusted
“The players have proven that in a single match they can lift their
level the way they did in Bilbao and I certainly believe that we can record a
good result on Thursday.”
Hasarma said that the team will be pleased with
any result other than a defeat, adding that “this is a very important and
difficult match and we have no time to think about what happened with
Lyon beat Sparta Prague 2-1 in its first group match and enters
Thursday’s match on the back of its first defeat of the season in the French
league, losing 2-0 to Bordeaux on Sunday after opening its campaign with four
wins and two draws.
Kiryat Shmona is unbeaten in its three continental
home games this season, while Lyon has won only one of its last eight European
away encounters, although many of those matches came against some of the world’s
biggest clubs, with the French side playing in the Champions League for 12
consecutive years until this season.
“We have no intention of taking
Kiryat Shmona lightly. We know we will be facing a strong team which drew with
Bilbao,” said Lyon coach Remi Garde.
“The departure of the coach could
make matters more difficult for Kiryat Shmona, but it also might bring about a
new dynamic which could work to their advantage.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv has
also undergone a coaching change since its Europa League group opener, with
Yossi Abuksis taking the place of the ailing Nitzan Shirazi last
Hapoel beat Bnei Sakhnin 1-0 in Abuksis’s first match in charge of
the team on Saturday, but its performance was disappointing once more, coming on
the back of its lackluster displays in the 1-0 Premier League defeat to Hapoel
Ramat Hasharon and the 3-0 home humbling at the hands of Atletico Madrid in its
Group B opener two weeks ago.
Tel Aviv visits Academica de Coimbra of
Portugal on Thursday, with the Portuguese team losing 3-1 at Viktoria Plzen of
the Czech Republic in its first group game.
Academica, which prior to
this season had not played in Europe since 1971, is unbeaten after five matches
of local league play, but it has recorded just one win, drawing four
“We are aiming to advance to the round of 32 from this group and
after losing at home to Atletico, which is the natural favorite to win the
group, we will be battling the Portuguese and the Czechs for second place,” said
Hapoel midfielder Elroei Cohen, who will be hoping to figure in Hapoel’s 100th
game in European competition.
“A road win will give us a massive
advantage and we must do it. We need to step up our performance from our recent