Banin’s Hapoel Haifa faces crucial relegation clash at Acre

Haifa (26 points) sits just three points clear of the relegation zone with five matches remaining and visits Hapoel Acre (23) in a significant showdown on Saturday.

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April 17, 2015 08:04
2 minute read.
Tal Banin

Hapoel Haifa’s coach Tal Banin. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

 
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When Tal Banin began his coaching career, it seemed as if he was destined for greatness.

The former Israel national team captain exuded authority as a central midfielder throughout his illustrious playing career and there seemed to be little doubt he would command the same respect as a coach.

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Combine that with his tactical shrewdness, and Banin looked to have everything a successful coach required.

However, nothing has gone according to script, with his career reaching a crossroads with his current struggle to guide Hapoel Haifa to another season in the Premier League.

Haifa (26 points) sits just three points clear of the relegation zone with five matches remaining and visits Hapoel Acre (23) in a significant showdown on Saturday.

Banin, 44, began his career as an assistant coach at Maccabi Petah Tikva in 2008 before being named as the Israel under-17 national team coach that summer.

He went on to become Luis Fernandez’s assistant at the senior national team, but the two were fired following an unsuccessful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.



Banin finally was given a chance to prove himself as a head coach in the Premier League in November 2012, replacing Nitzan Shirazi at Hapoel Haifa.

He helped the team avoid relegation in its final match of the season, but a day later signed at Maccabi Netanya.

Banin was fired by Netanya mid-season in March 2013 after a miserable stint. In November of that year he dropped a division to coach Maccabi Ahi Nazareth of the National League, but didn’t last long there either, leaving at the end of the season.

He received another chance two months ago when he returned to Hapoel Haifa as Reuven Atar’s replacement.

Banin guided Haifa to a win over defending-champion Maccabi Tel Aviv in his first match, but his second tenure at the club has gone downhill since. The team has picked up just a single point from its subsequent five matches, scoring only one goal over that stretch.

Fortunately for Haifa and Banin, the team’s rivals in the fight for survival are experiencing similar struggles, meaning it is still reasonably placed to maintain its top-flight status, and in the process, save the coach’s career.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Petah Tikva (23), which has won only one of its past 16 matches, visits Hapoel Tel Aviv (35), while Ashdod SC (22) aims to end its 10-game winless streak when it goes to Maccabi Netanya (39). Elsewhere, Bnei Sakhnin (36) welcomes Hapoel Ra’anana (37).

The top six teams will be in action on Sunday and Monday. On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Beersheba faces Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Maccabi Haifa on Monday.

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