(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Had you told Ashdod SC coach Yossi Mizrahi at the start of the season that his
team would be entering Wednesday’s match at reigning Premier League champion
Maccabi Haifa nine points ahead of the Greens he would have laughed in your
But amazingly, with the season about to hit its halfway mark, it is
Ashdod which looks the likelier of the two teams to go on and win the
Haifa’s 3-1 loss at Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday was
already its sixth of the season, while Ashdod’s 2-1 victory over Maccabi Tel
Aviv on Sunday was its sixth in seven matches, taking it ahead of Hapoel Tel
Aviv into second place in the standings, four points behind leader Ironi Kiryat
What has made Ashdod’s success especially remarkable is the fact
that Mizrahi has achieved it with a squad almost identical to the one that only
barely avoided relegation last season.
Mizrahi knows there are certain to
be some difficult days ahead, but he believes in his team and understands that a
win against Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium will make a resounding statement no
one in Israeli soccer will be able to deny.
“I’m not talking about
winning the championship,” Mizrahi said after the victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“But after such a start to the season we must finish among the very top
“Our test will come when we begin to lose and we will need to
prove we can overcome defeats.”
Meanwhile, Kiryat Shmona will be looking
to extend its lead at the top when it hosts rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva on
Ran Ben-Shimon’s side will be hoping Ashdod drops points at
Haifa and will be extremely confident of claiming a seventh straight win against
Petah Tikva, which will also enter the encounter in an upbeat mood after its
victory over the Greens.
Hapoel Tel Aviv seemed on course for another
championship two weeks ago, but it is now in danger of losing touch with Kiryat
Shmona after picking up a single point from its last three
However, Hapoel’s struggles pale in comparison to those of its
opponent on Wednesday, with Betar Jerusalem just two points above the relegation
zone after winning only one of its past 13 matches.
Betar hosts Hapoel at
National Stadium in Ramat Gan as a punishment for its fans’ unruliness in the
match against Bnei Yehuda.
Also Wednesday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel
Rishon Lezion, Hapoel Acre visits Hapoel Beersheba, Maccabi Petah Tikva welcomes
Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon faces Bnei Sakhnin.
Bnei Yehuda claimed its third win in four matches, beating Hapoel Haifa 1-0 at
Bloomfield Stadium thanks to Pedro Galvan’s 79th minute strike.