Greens try to regroup against Hapoel PT

Betar hosts Acre in long-awaited opener

Elisha Levy (photo credit: REUTERS)
Elisha Levy
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After coming so close to the Champions League group stage, Maccabi Haifa returns to the stark reality of the Israeli Premier League on Saturday evening when it hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva in front of empty stands at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Haifa outplayed Belgian champion KRC Genk for large periods of the Champions League playoffs, both in the first leg at home and in the return leg in Belgium on Tuesday.
However, the Greens failed to kill off Genk at National Stadium in Ramat Gan and couldn’t complete the job at the Cristal Arena, falling to a 4-1 defeat in a penalty shootout following a 3-3 tie on aggregate.
Haifa’s consolation prize is a place in the group stage of the Europa League, but until it renews its continental campaign on September 15, Elisha Levy’s side will be looking to bounce back from its Champions League disappointment and boost confidence levels with comfortable wins in local league play.
The Greens couldn’t have asked for an easier opponent than the bankrupt Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday, although Gili Landau’s men impressed with their fighting spirit before dropping to a 3-1 defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the first weekend of the season.
Haifa thrashed Maccabi Netanya 4-1 on the road in its first league match courtesy of four Weeam Amasha goals, and even though it will not have any backing from its supporters on Saturday as a result of fan trouble last season, it should still overcome Petah Tikva with ease.
“We hoped to advance to the Champions League group stage, but we couldn’t do it,” Haifa captain Yaniv Katan said.
“We are a strong club and we will recover from this.
“This club has been through a lot of highs and lows and sometimes you need to know how to take a loss like a man.”
Betar Jerusalem will host Hapoel Acre at Ramat Gan in its first match of the Premier League season on Saturday after its encounter at Hapoel Beersheba was postponed once more on Wednesday following the security situation in the south of Israel.
The double postponement of the match was a blessing in disguise for Betar as it gave new coach Yuval Naim, who only replaced David Amsalem last week, a few more days to get to know his squad and prepare for his first game at the helm.
Acre began its season with a 2-0 win over Bnei Yehuda.
“We have had some good training sessions in recent days and I’m very pleased with the squad, although we do need to make some additions,” said Naim, whose team will host its home games at Ramat Gan until the NIS 90 million renovation of Teddy Stadium is completed in November.
After having its encounter at Ashdod SC twice postponed, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon will play its first ever top-flight match on Saturday when it hosts fellow newly-promoted club Hapoel Rishon Lezion.
Rishon got its league campaign off to an impressive start, beating Bnei Sakhnin 4-2 last week in its first Premier League match since 2003.
Also Saturday, Beersheba visits Sakhnin and Ironi Kiryat Shmona, which beat Hapoel Haifa last week, hosts Netanya.
On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Petah Tikva welcomes Hapoel Haifa.
Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Ashdod on Monday.