Hapoel Haifa, Beitar register tight victories

Haifa back on top after triumph over Bnei Yehuda; Jerusalem edges Maccabi Petah Tikva

Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Ya’akov Berihon (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Ya’akov Berihon
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem kept the pressure on reigning Premier League champion Hapoel Beersheba after both recorded 1-0 victories on Saturday.
Radu Ginsari scored Haifa’s winner against Bnei Yehuda in the 85th minute, with Nir Klinger’s team riding its luck against Yossi Abuksis’s side, that saw its four-match winning streak snapped.
“This is a huge win against an excellent team,” said Klinger. “We showed a lot of character. We didn’t play well, but we took the three points and that is huge.”
Midfielder Ya’akov Berihon netted the only goal of the encounter between Beitar and Maccabi Petah Tikva at Teddy Stadium, finding the back of the net in the 69th minute. Beitar ended the match with 10 men following Georginho’s sending off in the 89th minute.
“We showed a lot of heart in getting this win,” said Beitar striker Itay Shechter. “This was a really difficult and important win.”
Beitar coach Benny Ben-Zaken will be hoping the win will help him finally win over the team’s supporters. Ben-Zaken has come under intense scrutiny from Beitar’s management and the club’s fans ever since he was appointed five matches into the campaign. Even though Jerusalem has managed to maintain a place among the leaders, Ben-Zaken was summoned to a one-on-one conversation with club boss Eli Ohana in which he was reprimanded for the team’s poor play.
The supporters have been on Ben-Zaken’s case almost from day one, with his hiring at the end of September catching most people by surprise, including the fans who had hoped for a bigger name.
Matters keep going from bad to worse for Maccabi Haifa, which suffered a 1-0 home loss to rock-bottom Hapoel Acre on Saturday. Ben Azubel scored in the 31st minute, taking Acre off the foot of the standings above Ashdod SC.
Haifa, which is still being guided by interim coach Rob Maas and was playing for the first time since Maor Buzaglo’s season-ending knee injury, is just seven points above the relegation zone.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Ra’anana drew 2-2.
Hapoel Beersheba can return to first place and regain a one-point lead over Hapoel Haifa when it visits Hapoel Ashkelon on Sunday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which began the weekend four points behind Beersheba, visits Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.
Maccabi announced on Saturday the appointment of its former defender Carlos Garcia as a new assistant coach.
Garcia’s hiring comes on the back of the departure of former England national team manager Steve McClaren.
The 33-year-old Garcia spent four years at Maccabi, winning three league titles, one State Cup and one Toto Cup. He scored seven goals in 173 appearances for Maccabi before moving Turkey in 2016.
“I am coming back home and starting a new stage in my life with the same motivation and ambition that I had when joined Maccabi as a player five years ago,” Garcia told the club’s website.
“I hope to match the level the biggest club in Israel deserves. Once again I feel proud to be part of Maccabi Tel Aviv.”
Maccabi’s coach Jordi Cruyff said: “Carlos is someone who doesn’t need an introduction to Maccabi Tel Aviv and Israeli football nor does he need time to adapt. His leadership, organisational skills and winning mentality we enjoyed on the pitch as he marshaled our defense and helped us win titles are assets we will all surely benefit from. I am certain that everyone connected to Maccabi will welcome him back in open arms.”
Maccabi’s CEO Ben Mansford added: “We are pleased to welcome Carlos back to the Maccabi family. Jordi feels Carlos is the right addition and we have moved swiftly to have Carlos back on the grass at Kiryat Shalom and alongside the rest of the coaching staff. Carlos knows what it takes to win titles at Maccabi and that knowledge will be important as we move forward with the rest of the season.”