Maccabi Haifa coach Guy Luzon.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
While the calls from the stands for the head of coach Guy Luzon seem to only be intensifying with every passing week, Maccabi Haifa can move tied for second place in the Premier League standings, just three points from the summit, when it hosts Beitar Jerusalem on Saturday night.
Haifa fans are unhappy with the team’s form, as well as Luzon’s conduct, with the Greens suffering defeats to lowly Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Acre at the start of the campaign and only managing a 2-2 draw against the struggling Maccabi Petah Tikva last weekend.
Nevertheless, with title favorites Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv getting off to slow starts, and Hapoel Haifa setting an early pace it is unlikely to maintain, Maccabi Haifa is still in the mix.
Luzon clearly understands that a significant improvement is required if Haifa has any intention of remaining in touch with the leaders. A win over second-place Beitar, which is coming off a 4-1 victory over Maccabi Netanya, would give the team much-needed confidence after another summer overhaul.
“I’m not delighted with our form and things are far from perfect, but we have only played seven matches and we are a completely new team,” said Luzon, who was caught on camera cursing towards the stands last Saturday, although he insists it wasn’t aimed at Haifa supporters.
“Our goal is to improve with every match and we did well to draw with Petah Tikva after trailing 2-0. I can understand the fans, but we have a common goal.”
Luzon is optimistic the team is heading in the right direction, but explained that it is unrealistic to expect smooth sailing at this stage of the campaign.
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“The atmosphere around Maccabi Haifa is as if we have lost six straight games. This is not a catastrophe and we will have an excellent team,” Luzon added.
“Our goal remains to finish in the top three. I think we will improve our play with every week, but there will be some ups and downs.”
Despite the convincing score-line, Beitar can consider itself fortunate to have beaten Netanya on Monday. Jerusalem struggled for large periods and it was only after substitute Yossi Benayoun entered the fray that it managed to score three late goals.
“We need to be a more balanced team because the match against Netanya could have gone either way,” said Beitar coach Benny Ben-Zaken.
A win for Beitar will take it up to first place on goal difference for at least 24 hours, with Hapoel Haifa, which has 17 points from a possible 21, not visiting Bnei Sakhnin until Sunday.
Also Saturday, Netanya looks to rebound when it hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Ashdod SC visits Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Acre plays Hapoel Ra’anana.
Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Hapoel Ashkelon on Sunday, with Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv to meet for the first time this season on Monday at Turner Stadium.
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