Shlomi Avisdris 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s dream start to the season can get even better on Saturday when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva knowing a victory will take it to the top of the Premier League standings for at least 24 hours.
Kiryat Shmona is the only team to have lost just a single match so far this season, and its four straight wins – including against the likes of Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa – have seen it consistently rise up the table in recent weeks.
Ran Ben-Shimon’s team is also unbeaten in its last eight league matches, and with Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv not playing until Sunday and Monday, respectively, Kiryat Shmona will climb into first place should it extend its winning streak to five matches on Saturday.
“Any one who has been watching us has seen that we have significantly improved with every match,” said Kiryat Shmona striker Shlomi Azulai, who joined the team on a one-season loan deal from Maccabi Haifa.
“We always knew it was only a matter of time until it would all come together and the balls would start finding the back of the net.”
However, despite Kiryat Shmona’s sensational start to the season, Azulai doesn’t feel the team is ready to challenge for the championship just yet.
“I can’t speak about winning a championship because that demands consistency over a long period,” he said ahead of the encounter against Petah Tikva, which has lost four straight matches.
“I hope we can continue like this, but winning the league title was never in our plans.”
Current league-leader Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Bnei Sakhnin in an
extremely tough road match on Sunday, with Sakhnin winning all five of
its home matches to date by a combined goal difference of 15-3.
Maccabi Haifa also hosts Bnei Yehuda on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv
faces Betar Jerusalem at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Monday.
Hapoel Acre will be hoping to continue its excellent run of form when it
visits Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on Saturday, while Ashdod SC hosts Maccabi
There will also be two crucial matches in the battle against relegation
on Saturday, with rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva welcoming 15th-placed
Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Haifa visiting Hapoel Rishon Lezion.
“The defeat last week to Ironi Kiryat Shmona was very painful, but we
have already put that match behind us and on Saturday we are facing a
match we have to win,” Beersheba defender William Suarez said.
“We got the season off to a disappointing start, but we must remain calm. I believe we will avoid relegation.”