Ran Ben-Shimon Ironi Kiryat Shmona 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s sensational start to the season may be surprising, but it is anything but
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Last season’s National League champion is following a
long-term plan which is bearing fruit sooner than many expected.
the guidance of Ran Ben-Shimon, Kiryat Shmona finished its first-ever season in
the top flight in 2007/08 in third position, qualifying for the UEFA
Ben-Shimon left Kiryat Shmona for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer of
2008, but returned later in the 2008/09 season after getting sacked by Maccabi
following only eight league matches. He couldn’t save Kiryat Shmona from
relegation, but remained up north and guided the club back to the Premier League
after a single campaign.
Earlier this week, Ben-Shimon signed a contract
extension through the 2011/12 season, and if his team’s first six matches are
anything to go by, there is still plenty to come from Kiryat Shmona’s
Ben-Shimon has built his team around a group of largely
unknown and unproven players, and they have not disappointed.
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performances of 21-year-old Elroei Cohen have already resulted in a call-up to
the Israel national team, while striker Wiyam Amashe has set the league on fire
thus far, scoring seven goals in six matches.
Kiryat Shmona not only
leads the league with 16 points out of a possible 18, but also tops all teams
with 16 goals while conceding the second lowest total (six, compared to Maccabi
Tel Aviv’s four).
“Things have gone well for us so far. We are
playing with passion and I love that,” Ben-Shimon said. “We need to continue to
play well because there is still a long way to go.”
Kiryat Shmona hosts
fellow newly promoted side, Hapoel Ashkelon, on Saturday, looking for a fifth
straight win which will ensure it at least one more week at the top of the
Ashkelon has also exceeded expectations to this point, losing
just one of its six matches.
Meanwhile, second-placed Maccabi Haifa will
be looking for an improvement in form when it hosts Ashdod SC.
Kiryat Shmona, Haifa is the only other unbeaten team in the league, but its
victories have been far from impressive.
Ashdod will be hoping to rebound
from Thursday’s ruling by the Israel Football Association disciplinary court
after being handed a 3-0 technical loss in its match against Hapoel
With the score tied at 3-3 deep into stoppage time at Ashdod’s
Yud-Alef Stadium on Sunday, referee’s assistant Oren Bornstein was struck by an
object thrown by the Ashdod fans and referee Ziv Adler called off the
Ashdod was also punished to play one match in front of empty
stands and pay a NIS 10,000 fine.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv will be
aiming to recover from last week’s loss in the derby in its home match against
Hapoel Ramat Gan, while Bnei Yehuda visits Hapoel Acre, Maccabi Netanya hosts
Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Beersheba welcomes Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Aviv visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Sunday, with Betar Jerusalem to host Bnei
Sakhnin on Monday.
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