Salim Toama, Hapoel Tel Aviv 311 .
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Premier League title hopes hang by a thread entering
Saturday’s match against Hapoel Acre at Bloomfield Stadium.
winless streak has seen the one-point lead Hapoel held at the top of the
standings less than three weeks ago turn into a nine-point deficit to the
streaking Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Hapoel, which has also been leapfrogged by
Ashdod SC, has scored just two goals in its last four games, losing twice 1-0
before recording two straight 1-1 draws, the latest coming against Betar
Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Tel Aviv didn’t really deserve to even claim a
single point against Betar and coach Dror Kashtan knows a significant and
immediate improvement is needed.
“We saw 90 minutes of nothing from
Hapoel,” Kashtan admitted. “This is a second straight match we have scored an
early goal and stopped playing afterwards.
We played very poorly. We
didn’t move the ball, didn’t threaten Betar’s goal and allowed Jerusalem to
dominate the possession.”
Kashtan is not too concerned with the gap
Kiryat Shmona has opened, mainly because he knows that if Hapoel doesn’t pick up
its performance soon it has no chance of winning the championship regardless of
what the northerners do.
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“We need to focus on the way we are playing and
not on the gap,” he said. “This may sound like an excuse, but we are missing
four key players through injury and we need to strengthen the squad in the
January transfer window.”
Kiryat Shmona visits second- placed Ashdod on
Monday in the unlikeliest top of the table showdown in recent
Meanwhile, the floundering Maccabi Haifa goes for just its
second win in six matches on Saturday when it visits the desperate Hapoel Rishon
Lezion, which is winless in its past 16 matches.
fourth-placed Bnei Sakhnin looks for its fourth straight victory when it hosts
Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bnei Yehuda visits Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon
welcomes Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel hosts Maccabi in the Petah Tikva
Betar visits Hapoel Haifa in a crucial match-up in the battle
against relegation on Sunday.
Betar, which has won just once in its past
14 matches, received further bad news on Thursday after the Israel Football
Association announced that it will penalize the club for its fans’ racist chants
on Wednesday, which could result in the team being deducted two points.
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