Hapoel Tel Aviv’s woes continue in rout

Kanuk leads Hap Haifa to triumph • Beitar Jerusalem plays to another goalless draw vs Mac Haifa.

SHLOMI AZULAY (right) and Beitar Jerusalem have had problems finding the back of the net recently, with the club from the capital playing to yet another 0-0 draw over the weekend, this time at Maccabi Haifa, in Premier League Championship Playoff action.  (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
SHLOMI AZULAY (right) and Beitar Jerusalem have had problems finding the back of the net recently, with the club from the capital playing to yet another 0-0 draw over the weekend, this time at Maccabi Haifa, in Premier League Championship Playoff action.
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
In Israeli Premier League Championship Playoff action over the weekend, Hapoel Haifa pounded Hapoel Tel Aviv 4-0 as Haim Silvas’s squad decimated Nir Klinger’s Reds at Sammy Ofer Stadium thanks to a brace by Gidi Kanuk.
Last week, Tel Aviv was shell-shocked by second-division squad Maccabi Petah Tikva in the Israel State Cup semifinals and on Sunday night the Carmel Mountain side took full advantage of Hapoel’s precarious situation to put up a four-spot.
Kanuk began the onslaught in the 16th minute when he buried a penalty for his first goal of the game. The attacking midfielder doubled the advantage in the 55th minute when Hapoel Tel Aviv defender Orel Dagani lost the ball to Tomer Altman, who in turn sent a brilliant through-ball to Kanuk, who beat Arik Yanko once again to give Haifa a 2-0 lead.
Less than nine minutes later, Doron Linder pulled down Almog Buzaglo in the box and Haifa was awarded a spot-kick that Gal Arel converted. Just 60 seconds later, Liran Sardel fed Nes Zamir and the latter found the back of the goal to help Haifa to the three points just ahead of its date in the capital against Beitar Jerusalem on Wednesday.
“We put on a show today,” said an excited Silvas. “We knew that Hapoel Tel Aviv was dangerous, but the early goal gave us the momentum. We are trying some things out and next game there may be a different lineup.”
Kanuk also reflected on the big victory and his scoring prowess.
“I’m happy we were issued the penalties and they were deserved. We are looking really good so far in the playoffs and we are playing like a team as we are enjoying every minute.”
Losing coach Klinger didn’t want to use the State Cup loss as an excuse.
“Getting knocked out had no influence on how we played. We have a tough schedule and we are playing with both youngsters and veterans which means we are going to make some errors on the field.”
Elsewhere, Maccabi Haifa hosted Beitar Jerusalem to 0-0 and the sides split the points at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Neither team seemed interested in finding the back of the goal in the bore-fest as the Greens have scored a total of three goals in four Championship Playoff games while the yellow-and-black have scored a grand total of one.
Roni Levy’s Jerusalem team will now prepare to host Hapoel Haifa on Wednesday at Teddy Stadium in the capital.
“This was a bad game,” declared Maccabi Haifa coach Marko Balbul following the game. “We had some chances but couldn’t score. The players tried their best today, but Beitar is a tough team with a good squad and we weren’t accurate enough.”
Levy also commented on his team’s drought,
“This was disappointing and now we have gone three games without scoring a goal,” said Levy. “After we lost 3-0 to Hapoel Tel Aviv it was important for us to straighten the team up even though it has hurt us offensively.”
Also, Ironi Kiryat Shmona defeated Hapoel Ra’anana 1-0 in dramatic fashion as the lone goal of the contest came was a 93rd-minute tally by Ori Dahan to give Kobi Refuah’s squad three valuable points in order to move further away from the relegation zone.
After 90-plus minutes of scoreless play, Dahan found the back of the goal from 12 meters to put the visitors ahead 1-0. However, just three minutes later, Dahan pulled down Idan Shemesh in the box as Israeli international referee Orel Grinfeld issued a penalty to Ra’anana.
But Kiryat Shmona ’keeper Dziugas Bartkus made the key stop on Snir Shuker’s spot-kick and enabled his side to secure the points.
Ra’anana will take on its relegation counterpart, Sektzia Ness Ziona, on Thursday.
“If anyone has a weak heart, then this game wasn’t for them,” stated Refuah. “This game took a few years of some people’s lives, but it was a sweet victory. We made some poor decisions and missed a number of chances. But I’m happy with the three points and I’m thrilled for Ori Dahan, who is a young guy and a hard worker who took the opportunity with both hands.”
Dahan said that Kiryat Shmona has its eye on the future and will not just revel in the victory.
“We have to keep working hard,” said Dahan. “We have four games left and my goal may have been the one that will keep us in the top league. I want to thank the coach for giving me the opportunity and I paid him back.”
In other action, Ashdod SC defeated Ness Ziona 2-0 as Lior Zada’s squad remains precariously close to being relegated.
Sagiv Yehezkel opened the scoring in the 14th minute thanks to a magnificent counter-attack that saw Shlomi Azoulay lead the way to Dean David, who in turn sent the ball to Yehezkel, who headed it by a helpless Omri Glazer for a 1-0 lead.
The port city side sealed the deal in the 75th minute when Dries Wuytens put the ball into his own net to give Ran Ben Shimon’s team the three points.
“We played solid soccer,” said Ben Shimon of his Ashdod players. “We could have finished the game off much early, but sometimes that’s what happens when you score an early goal. We want to continue to win and finish this season as best we can. Then I can begin to build the squad for next season.”
Hapoel Hadera and Hapoel Kfar Saba played to a dry goalless draw as both sides played not to lose in order to ensure another season in Israeli soccer’s top-flight division. Hadera will host Maccabi Netanya in a midweek fixture on Thursday.
In the final two games of the round, Netanya faced Bnei Yehuda and league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv took on Hapoel Beersheba on Monday night in matches that ended after press time.