Ran Ben-Shimon must have felt like the entire world had decided to conspire
Finally, his team performed the way he had been hoping for
since the start of the season, and yet, he still ended another match with the
desperately dejecting sensation that he is forever doomed to
Ben-Shimon’s Hapoel Tel Aviv thoroughly dominated Hapoel Beersheba
for the first 40 minutes of Monday night’s showdown at Bloomfield Stadium. But
it struggled to create scoring opportunities and entered the halftime interval
trailing 1-0 after a rare break forward by the southerners was clinically
completed by Dovev Gabai in the 42nd minute.
nevertheless burst out of the gates at the start of the second half and looked
to have gotten back on track after Ramzi Sfuri netted a deserved equalizer six
minutes after the break.
However, just when it seemed that Hapoel was on
course to return to winning ways, Lior Levy unintentionally, and unfortunately,
handled the ball in the box, allowing Gabai to fire Beersheba back into the lead
after just five minutes.
The hosts still refused to drop their heads –
until they conceded the third goal, that is.
Referee Orel Greenfeld
harshly adjudged that Orel Dgani had fouled Gabai in the box and the striker
stepped up in the 71st minute to complete a hat-trick and secure Beersheba a
Tel Aviv had every reason to feel snake-bitten, with
bad luck and refereeing decisions playing a major role in its
Ben-Shimon was quick to claim that the better team had lost, but
he knew all too well that yet again he would be the one forced to shoulder much
of the blame.
The fact that Hapoel is currently closer to Hapoel Ramat
Hasharon and the relegation zone (nine points) than it is to Bnei Sakhnin in
third place (10 points) is damning evidence of how poor Tel Aviv’s start to the
season has been.
Inevitably, it is the coach who is held responsible for
disappointing results, something Ben-Shimon is all too well aware
Ben-Shimon was sacked by Maccabi Tel Aviv just eight matches into the
2008/09 season, failing to live up to the high expectations.
It is safe
to say that he would not currently be the Hapoel coach if the club could afford
to fire him.
Hapoel’s failure to reach the Europa League group stage this
season has left a gaping hole in the club’s budget, which would only mushroom
should it also need to compensate Ben-Shimon for an unceremonious
The coach preaches each and every week about the process the
team is undergoing and that setbacks are all part of the course, but he cannot
argue with the results.
Hapoel is expected to challenge for the
championship each and every season, especially when it completely overhauls its
squad the way it did last summer. The Reds brought in 12 new senior players in
the off-season, including star striker Itay Shechter, to join a roster which
already included the likes of Israel internationals Gili Vermut and Omer
Ben-Shimon looked to be the ideal man to mold the group into a
winning team, but has got very little to show for his efforts so
Hapoel has recorded just five wins from its first 15 matches of the
campaign, losing for the sixth time on Monday. With 19 points, seventh-placed
Hapoel has not only got half the points of league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv, but
is also quickly losing touch with the teams in second and third place, which
lead to Europa League qualification.
Second-placed Beersheba moved 15
points clear of Hapoel with Monday’s win, while Sakhnin in third place is
already 10 points ahead of the reds.
Hapoel played two of its best
matches of the season in recent weeks, but still ended up losing 1-0 to Maccabi
in the derby and to Beersheba at Bloomfield.
The takeover of the club by
former Member of Knesset Haim Ramon and his ownership group in July 2012 was
supposed to have steadied the ship following the Eli Tabib era.
it seems that very little has changed in the chaotic running of the club, with
Ramon desperate to off-load Hapoel to the highest bidder at the first
All of this only turns up the heat on Ben-Shimon, who is
often left alone in the line of fire.
Ben-Shimon proved his pedigree by
leading Ironi Kiryat Shmona to an historic championship in the 2011/12 season.
But he clearly understands that should he add a resounding failure at Hapoel to
the one he has already experienced at Maccabi Tel Aviv, he may never get another
chance at a big club.
Ben-Shimon keeps insisting that he has no intention
of leaving before the end of the season and knows that his future as a coach may
depend on the results he registers with Hapoel over the next five
Ben-Shimon’s hefty contract is saving Ramon and his cronies from
themselves as it has so far prevented them from making the mistake of sacking
The results to date clearly show that Ben-Shimon has fallen
well short of expectations.
But most soccer aficionados would agree that
Ben-Shimon remains one of Israel’s best coaches, meaning he should be afforded
at least until the end of the season to see what he can achieve with
There is no quick-fix to the situation at the club and Ben-Shimon
crucially still has the faith of the dressing room.
The club’s management
and fans are no longer deluding themselves that Hapoel will fight for the
championship this season.
Everyone has been forced to reassess their
goals, including Ben-Shimon.
Firing the coach would allow many people to
get rid of their frustrations, but would not bring any benefit to the club in
the short or the long term.
Ben-Shimon continues to maintain a calm
demeanor and say all the right things, and perhaps more than anything else,
Hapoel’s crisis has proven that he can handle the pressure of the
There are many changes Hapoel needs to be making this week.
The coach’s position is not one of them.
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