(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The great escape?
How about the greatest escape?!
Should Hapoel Petah Tikva
manage to avoid relegation from the Premier League it will accomplish a feat
even its most optimistic fan deemed impossible six months ago.
Tikva’s fate seemed to be sealed even before the first kick of the
In fact, Petah Tikva was already sent to the National League last
summer due to its disastrous financial state.
However, the Israel
Football Association’s high court decided to reinstate the team to the Premier
League just a week before the start to the season, although it didn’t cancel the
nine-point deduction it was handed for going into administration.
Tikva is still fighting that decision, with its appeal to the Israel Supreme
Court set to be heard on March 28.
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The club knows it has little chance of
a reprieve considering the District Court has already emphatically rejected its
request to overturn the IFA’s ruling.
However, the management is simply
emulating the fighting spirit its players have shown on the field, with Petah
Tikva closing to within eight points of safety last week thanks to a dramatic
2-1 victory over Hapoel Beersheba.
Despite not having a proper pre-season
preparation and taking a 30 percent cut in their salary to help the club remain
afloat, Petah Tikva players have shown no resentment on the field, instead
playing their hearts out for a club which still holds the local record of
winning five straight league championships (1959-1963).
With 11 matches
left until the end of the season and an eight-point deficit to close, Petah
Tikva is still extremely likely to be relegated.
However, two straight
wins have given Gili Landau’s men real hope of achieving the impossible ahead of
Saturday’s visit to Ashdod SC.
“We have been showing positive signs for a
while and it is a real psychological boost to have managed to win two straight
matches,” Landau said.
“We made a statement with the win in Beersheba
last week. The league is a marathon and you need to show stamina. I hope that we
can eventually accomplish the implausible.”
Petah Tikva will also need
help from its rivals to maintain its top-flight status and it will be crossing
its fingers that Hapoel Rishon Lezion, which is three points ahead of it,
falters against Maccabi Netanya on Saturday and that Beersheba’s visit to
Maccabi Petah Tikva ends in defeat.
Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa are
tied on 25 points just above the relegation zone, with Betar to visit Maccabi
Haifa on Sunday and Hapoel Haifa to face Bnei Sakhnin on
Meanwhile, leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona will look to maintain its
12-point gap when it hosts Bnei Yehuda on Saturday, while second-placed Hapoel
Tel Aviv goes to Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv
welcomes Hapoel Acre.
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