Maccabi TA off to winning start under Lito

Yellow-and-blue closes to within two points of Beersheba following Kjartansson hat-trick against K8.

February 19, 2017 00:12
2 minute read.
Maccab i Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson netted his first hat-trick for the team last night,

Maccab i Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson netted his first hat-trick for the team last night, scoring all three of his side’s goals in the 3-0 win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona in Netanya. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

A Vidar Orn Kjartansson hat-trick ensured Lito Vidigal got life at Maccabi Tel Aviv off to a dream start on Saturday night, giving the yellow-and-blue a 3-0 win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona and closing the gap on first place to just two points.

Kjartansson took his league-leading tally to 14 goals with strikes in the 45th, 66th and 82nd minutes, ensuring Lito built on the momentum created during sports director Jordi Cruyff’s time at the helm.

Maccabi picked up 16 of a possible 18 points in six league matches under Cruyff, who guided the team for over a month following the sacking of Shota Arveladze, and has piled the pressure on Beersheba ahead of its game on Sunday.

Beersheba can increase its lead back to five points when it visits Hapoel Haifa. Beersheba hasn’t won a road match in league action in over two months, picking up two of a possible 12 points from its last four games away from Turner Stadium.

The reigning champion will likely soon be able to turn its entire focus to league play, with its Europa League campaign set to end in Istanbul on Thursday. Coach Barak Bachar acknowledged that the 3-1 loss to Besiktas in the first leg at Turner Stadium three days ago leaves Beersheba with an almost impossible mission in the return leg and that Sunday’s match in Haifa is of greater significance.

“We could have registered a better result, but we are already thinking about Sunday’s match, which is more important than the second leg,” said Bachar. “Our chances in Istanbul are slim, but as long as we have a chance we will give our all. We have experienced a natural decline in our form, but I promise that we will return to our best.”

Maccabi’s new coach insisted that he is entirely focused on his own team.

“It is very important for the team that we started with a victory,” said Lito. “We are thinking only about our games. We don’t care about the other teams.”

Guy Luzon got life at Maccabi Haifa off to a winning start on Saturday, with the Greens beating Hapoel Kfar Saba 2-0 on the road.

Defender Dekel Keinan scored both goals (11, 79) for Haifa, which moved up to sixth place despite winning just one of its previous eight games under fired coach Rene Meulensteen.

The third coach to make his debut on Saturday was Ran Ben-Shimon, and unlike the first two, his team could only manage a draw. Or Inbrum (34) gave Ben-Shimon’s Ashdod the lead, but Idan Shemesh (57) earned Bnei Sakhnin a 1-1 draw.

Hapoel Ra’anana eased its relegation worries with a third win in four matches on Saturday, further complicating Bnei Yehuda’s situation with a 2-0 triumph. Bnei Yehuda goalkeeper Emilijus Zubas was sent off in the 75th minute for handling the ball outside the box and goals from Yuval Shabtay (78) and Mohammed Kalibat (84) moved Ra’anana 11 points clear of the relegation zone, while Bnei Yehuda remained five points above the bottom two.

On Sunday, Maccabi Petah Tikva goes to Hapoel Ashkelon, with Hapoel Tel Aviv hosting Beitar Jerusalem on Monday.

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