Hapoel Haifa striker Eden Ben-Basat hopes he will be still smiling after the league-leader’s road encounter at Ashdod SC on Saturday..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Haifa enters another weekend of Premier League action in first place, with coach Nir Klinger insisting his team is not overwhelmed by its position at the summit of the standings.
Haifa moved to 27 points from a possible 36 with a 1-0 win over Maccabi Haifa on Monday, its first victory in a home league derby in nearly 22 years. Klinger’s side sits in first place thanks to a one-goal edge over Hapoel Beersheba, and will be confident of keeping the momentum going when it visits lowly Ashdod SC on Saturday.
Haifa’s surprise start to the season is all the more remarkable when compared to last season’s results.
Haifa amassed a total of 37 points from 33 matches with a similar squad last term, finishing the campaign in eighth place. Hapoel didn’t reach 27 points until February in 2016/17, but has far exceeded expectations this season and is growing in belief with every passing week.
Haifa can go three points clear for at least 24 hours, with Beersheba visiting Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday.
Beitar Jerusalem can move tied on points with Beersheba with a victory over Hapoel Ra’anana at Teddy Stadium on Saturday.
Despite the continued unrest at the club, Beitar returned to winning ways last weekend, defeating Hapoel Acre 3-1 for its first triumph since October after failing to take all three points in its two previous matches.
Nevertheless, the side’s far from impressive play, combined with the limited role fan-favorite Yossi Benayoun has received, resulted in fans calling for the head of coach Benny Ben-Zaken last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa coach Guy Luzon enters Saturday’s match against Hapoel Ashkelon with his job on the line. The Greens are in eighth place with 15 points after winning only four of 12 games to date.
Even if Luzon holds on to his job in the near future, his days at the club seem to be numbered. Luzon admitted on Thursday that he has never even met his new assistant coach Dutchman Rob Maas, appointed earlier this week by new technical director Mo Allach.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Bnei Yehuda. Ironi Kiryat Shmona welcomes Hapoel Acre on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday.