Hap TA looks to maintain momentum in Kiryat Shmona

Not only is the team no longer considered as a championship contender, but there are some experts who believe the Reds will struggle to finish among the top six.

September 19, 2014 03:13
2 minute read.
Hapoel Tel Aviv

Hapoel Tel Aviv players celebrated a winning start to the Premier League season last night after beating Maccabi Netanya 1-0 at Bloomfield Stadium thanks to a Cristian Sârghi own goal. . (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

After entering recent seasons as one of the favorites to win the Premier League title, Hapoel Tel Aviv began 2014/15 with significantly lower expectations.

Not only is the team no longer considered as a championship contender, but there are some experts who believe the Reds will even struggle to finish among the top six and qualify for the championship playoffs.

However, following a tumultuous summer, a tight 1-0 win over Maccabi Netanya in its season opener last week gave Hapoel a much-needed confidence boost ahead of Saturday’s tricky trip to Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

The club’s budget had to be slashed midway through the team’s rebuilding process this summer following the departure of part-owner Ido Hagag.

Nevertheless, General Manager Eyal Berkovic managed to put together a relatively strong squad with meager resources. Sari Falah and Shlomi Azulay joined the team from Maccabi Haifa last week, with promising striker Shoval Gozlan moving from the Greens on a one-year loan deal earlier in the summer.

Goalkeeper Danny Amos and midfielders Shay Abutbul, Israel Zaguri and Gili Vermut are all back for another season and Berkovic is still hoping to also add midfielder Moshe Ohayon to the squad.

Despite the initial concerns regarding the club’s financial situation, Hapoel has managed to build a balanced squad, which may not be capable of challenging for the title, but should be able to compete for European qualification, explaining Berkovic’s optimism at the club’s Rosh Hashanah toast on Wednesday.

“Things started off tough, but we have a good team here,” said Berkovic. “Unfortunately, everyone talks about me, but the credit should go to the players and coach Asi Domb and his staff. I believe that Hapoel will be a legitimate top team despite the financial crisis. I truly believe that Hapoel can challenge for the title.”

Kiryat Shmona was once more tipped by many to be this season’s dark horse, but it could only manage a 0-0 draw at Ashdod SC last week.

Hapoel Beersheba aims to kick-start its campaign when it visits Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday. Beersheba has already lost ground to its main rivals in the title race – Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa – after being held to a 1-1 draw by Beitar Jerusalem in its opener.

Newly promoted Petah Tikva will be looking to bounce back from last week’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Hapoel Ra’anana.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Ashdod, Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Maccabi Netanya and Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Hapoel Acre. A ceremony denouncing racism will be held ahead of the match in Sakhnin as part of the New Israel Fund’s Kick Racism Out of Football program.

On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Ra’anana, with Beitar Jerusalem welcoming Maccabi Haifa to Teddy Stadium on Monday.

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