MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
You know Maccabi Haifa is going through a crisis when owner Jacob Shahar drops
in on a training session and scolds the players, like he did earlier this week
following the 3-0 humbling at the hands of Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Premier League season just nine matches old, the reigning champion has already
equaled last season’s total of three defeats and finds itself seven points back
of first-placed Maccabi Tel Aviv after winning just once in its past five
Despite its struggles in the league, Haifa is well-placed to reach
the Europa League round of 32 after taking control of second place in Group J
with a 5-0 thrashing of Steaua Bucharest.
However, just three days after
that emphatic win, Haifa was a shadow of itself at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium and
was completely outplayed by Kiryat Shmona, something which Shahar refused to
“After the match I wanted to spank every one of you,”
Shahar told the players. “A player who fails to meet the club’s standards will
be put on the transfer list in January.”
Shahar also defended coach
Elisha Levy, who despite guiding the club to two championships in the last three
seasons – as well as leading it to the group stages of the Champions League and
Europa League – was berated by fans demanding his resignation following the
defeat to Kiryat Shmona.
“I’m embarrassed by the calls from the stands
for Elisha Levy to resign because of your incompetence,” an angry Shahar said.
“Any time I hear such calls I will see that as a measure of your
“I want another championship and I refuse to hear complaints
Haifa players will have their first chance to soothe their
boss when they visit Maccabi Petah Tikva at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on
Saturday in a match Shahar will be fully expecting them to win.
Tikva lost 1-0 at Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday in coach Eyal Lachman’s first match
in charge since replacing Marco Balbul.
However, it will be entering
Saturday’s encounter boosted by Wednesday’s progress to the Toto Cup semifinals
with a 4-2 penalty shootout win following a 1-1 draw after extra time against an
under-strength Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Like Haifa, Hapoel Tel Aviv also enters
Saturday’s match against Hapoel Rishon Lezion at Bloomfield Stadium still
reeling from a disappointing defeat.
The Reds lacked desire and
determination in their 2-0 defeat at Ashdod SC on Sunday, and the fact that they
are just two points off the top of the standings despite winning just one of
their past four matches, should be of little consolation.
At least Hapoel
is facing an ideal opponent against which to recover, with Rishon winless in its
last seven matches after claiming all three points in its first two games of the
Hapoel advanced to the Toto Cup semis with a 5-3 extra-time win
over Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on Wednesday, but coach Dror Kashtan was far from
pleased with the fact his team dropped a two-goal lead to trail 3-2 at halftime
before eventually claiming the victory.
“Hapoel’s defense can’t concede
three goals like it did today,” Kashtan said. “The most important thing is that
we won, but I’m not pleased.
Do you know a coach who is pleased after
seeing his team squander such a lead?” After winning four times in its current
six-match unbeaten streak to climb to third place in the table, Maccabi Netanya
will be confident of getting the better of Hapoel Petah Tikva at home on
Kiryat Shmona, which is just one point back of Netanya after
its recent triumphs over Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa, will hope to extend
its winning streak to four matches when it visits Hapoel
Kiryat Shmona and Beersheba will also meet in the Toto Cup
semifinals in January after beating Ashdod SC and Bnei Sakhnin,
However, Wednesday’s 1-0 Toto Cup defeat to Beersheba will
have done little to dent confidence levels at the high-flying Sakhnin, which
visits Hapoel Acre in a tricky road match on Saturday.
Hapoel Haifa hosts Ashdod.
Betar Jerusalem faces Ramat Hasharon in Ramat
Gan on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bnei Yehuda on Monday.