Ironi Kiryat Shmona soccer team 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s charge for the Premier League championship overcame
another hurdle on Saturday when the northerners beat Bnei Sakhnin 3-2 on the
road to increase their lead at the top of the standings to eight
After 642 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal, Eric Gawu
breached Kiryat Shmona’s defense to give Sakhnin a 20th-minute lead at the cold
and swampy Doha Stadium.
However, Kiryat Shmona wouldn’t be rattled by
falling into an early deficit and losing influential midfielder Ravid Gazal to
injury in the 14th minute, scoring three times by the halftime whistle to all
but clinch a ninth win in 10 matches.
Shimon Abu-Hazeira equalized five
minutes after Gawu’s opener and a powerful header by new signing David Solari in
the 43rd followed by a bullet from the edge of the area by Adi Elisha less than
two minutes later gave Ran Ben-Shimon’s men a cushion they were never going to
Kostadin Hazurov’s goal six minutes from time ensured there
would be an exciting finish, but Kiryat Shmona held on for the win to take its
unbeaten run to 19 matches and increase its gap to eight points following
second-placed Ashdod’s dreary 0-0 home draw against Bnei Yehuda.
was more than just another win. I’m very proud of my players,” Ben-Shimon said.
“It is not easy to come back from a goal down against Sakhnin, but we showed a
lot of heart, character and brains. We have a committed team and we overcame
difficult conditions tonight. We are one of the candidates to win the league,
but there is still a long road ahead with many bumps to overcome.”
Ashdod seemingly falling by the wayside after failing to win for the third time
in four matches on Saturday, Kiryat Shmona’s only real challenger for a historic
championship looks to be Hapoel Tel Aviv.
However, the Reds are in
complete disarray following the shocking sacking of Dror Kashtan last week, and
with a 12-point deficit from Kiryat Shmona, they can kiss their title hopes
goodbye should they fail to beat Hapoel Haifa on the road in new coach Nitzan
Shirazi’s first match at the helm on Monday night.
Maccabi Tel Aviv moved
up to fourth in the table on Saturday with a thumping 4-0 victory over Hapoel
Beersheba at Bloomfield Stadium.
Munas Dabbur netted his third and fourth
goals (18, 62) in Maccabi’s last four league games, sandwiching strikes from
Roberto Colautti (23) and Eliran Atar (55).
“I think this was our best
game of the season,” said coach Nir Levine, who after replacing Moti Ivanir on
an interim basis last month was told last week that he will continue until the
end of the season. “We could have scored more than four goals, but when you win
4-0 you are happy.”
While the yellow-and-blue is slowly getting back on
track, there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis at Maccabi Haifa, with
the reigning champion failing to win for a fifth consecutive match on Saturday,
drawing 0-0 at Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
After two straight goalless
deadlocks, Haifa hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium next
“Clearly this isn’t what we would like to see from the team,” said
Haifa coach Elisha Levy, who once more had to endure calls for his resignation
from the stands.
Lior Bartekovski’s 84th-minute equalizer gave Hapoel
Rishon Lezion a 2-2 draw against Maccabi Petah Tikva and an important point in
the battle against relegation.
Tal Ben-Haim (10) and Danny Preda (48)
twice gave Petah Tikva the lead, but Asi Baldut (45) and Bartekovski ensured the
points would be shard.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Acre
drew 1-1, with Hen Ezra (20) netting for the hosts and Guy Dayan tying the score
for Acre in the 64th minute.
Betar Jerusalem visits Hapoel Petah Tikva at
the Moshava Stadium on Sunday in a crucial showdown in the fight against