Hapoel Tel Aviv 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Two convincing wins in a row have turned Hapoel Tel Aviv’s rocky start to the
season into a distant memory.
However, Ran Ben-Shimon’s men still can’t
afford any more slip-ups as they attempt to chase down the rampant Maccabi Tel
Hapoel got off to its worst start in six years after picking up
just a single point from its first two matches while failing to score a goal.
Its local struggles came on the back of a shock exit in the third round of the
Europa League qualifiers, putting Ben-Shimon under intense pressure with the
season barely underway.
However, a 3-1 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva
followed by last week’s 4-0 triumph at Hapoel Haifa have catapulted Hapoel up to
fifth place in the standings and got the Reds feeling optimistic once more
regarding their chances of claiming the league title.
After failing to
start a single match for Hapoel since December 2012 due to injuries, midfielder
Gili Vermut has been included in the team’s starting 11 in the last two games
and is slowly regaining the form that saw him lead the team to the championship
“I just do my part. I don’t deserve the credit for the recent
wins,” said Vermut.
“The team has matured and improved with time and I’m
happy to have helped. We are slowly molding and I hope we can build on
Despite Maccabi Tel Aviv’s recordbreaking start to the
season, becoming the first team ever to win its first four matches without
conceding a goal, Vermut believes Hapoel can keep pace with the reigning
champion, but only if it wins matches like Saturday’s against Hapoel Ra’anana at
“It was obvious from the start that Maccabi and
Hapoel will battle it out at the top,” he said.
“Maccabi looks unbeaten
now, but we need to focus on our own play and make sure we win every weekend.
Playing Ra’anana will not be easy at all as they have yet to lose this season.
This is a tough team that doesn’t give up and always plays until the final
Ra’anana has been the surprise package of the season so far,
picking up eight out of a possible 12 points to date, drawing 2-2 with Beitar
Jerusalem on Sunday.
Hapoel can close to within two points of the summit
on Saturday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv not visiting Ashdod SC until Sunday night,
while the also-perfect Hapoel Beersheba faces Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer
Stadium later Sunday.
In other action on Saturday, Beitar Jerusalem will
expect to return to winning ways when it visits rock-bottom Hapoel Ramat
Beitar has recorded just one win from its first four matches,
but will have an ideal opportunity to get back on track versus a floundering
Ramat Hasharon side, which has lost all four of its games by a combined goal
difference of 2-12.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Acre hosts Hapoel Haifa, Bnei
Sakhnin visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Bnei Yehuda welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva.