Haifa owner Shahar berates players after latest loss

Despite its struggles in the league, Haifa is well-placed to reach the Europa League round of 32 after taking control of second place in Group J.

MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
You know Maccabi Haifa is going through a crisis when owner Jacob Shahar drops in on a training session and scolds the players, like he did earlier this week following the 3-0 humbling at the hands of Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
With the Premier League season just nine matches old, the reigning champion has already equaled last season’s total of three defeats and finds itself seven points back of first-placed Maccabi Tel Aviv after winning just once in its past five games.
Despite its struggles in the league, Haifa is well-placed to reach the Europa League round of 32 after taking control of second place in Group J with a 5-0 thrashing of Steaua Bucharest.
However, just three days after that emphatic win, Haifa was a shadow of itself at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium and was completely outplayed by Kiryat Shmona, something which Shahar refused to take quietly.
“After the match I wanted to spank every one of you,” Shahar told the players. “A player who fails to meet the club’s standards will be put on the transfer list in January.”
Shahar also defended coach Elisha Levy, who despite guiding the club to two championships in the last three seasons – as well as leading it to the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League – was berated by fans demanding his resignation following the defeat to Kiryat Shmona.
“I’m embarrassed by the calls from the stands for Elisha Levy to resign because of your incompetence,” an angry Shahar said. “Any time I hear such calls I will see that as a measure of your performance.
“I want another championship and I refuse to hear complaints of fatigue.”
Haifa players will have their first chance to soothe their boss when they visit Maccabi Petah Tikva at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Saturday in a match Shahar will be fully expecting them to win.
Petah Tikva lost 1-0 at Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday in coach Eyal Lachman’s first match in charge since replacing Marco Balbul.
However, it will be entering Saturday’s encounter boosted by Wednesday’s progress to the Toto Cup semifinals with a 4-2 penalty shootout win following a 1-1 draw after extra time against an under-strength Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Like Haifa, Hapoel Tel Aviv also enters Saturday’s match against Hapoel Rishon Lezion at Bloomfield Stadium still reeling from a disappointing defeat.
The Reds lacked desire and determination in their 2-0 defeat at Ashdod SC on Sunday, and the fact that they are just two points off the top of the standings despite winning just one of their past four matches, should be of little consolation.
At least Hapoel is facing an ideal opponent against which to recover, with Rishon winless in its last seven matches after claiming all three points in its first two games of the season.
Hapoel advanced to the Toto Cup semis with a 5-3 extra-time win over Hapoel Ramat Hasharon on Wednesday, but coach Dror Kashtan was far from pleased with the fact his team dropped a two-goal lead to trail 3-2 at halftime before eventually claiming the victory.
“Hapoel’s defense can’t concede three goals like it did today,” Kashtan said. “The most important thing is that we won, but I’m not pleased.
Do you know a coach who is pleased after seeing his team squander such a lead?” After winning four times in its current six-match unbeaten streak to climb to third place in the table, Maccabi Netanya will be confident of getting the better of Hapoel Petah Tikva at home on Saturday.
Kiryat Shmona, which is just one point back of Netanya after its recent triumphs over Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa, will hope to extend its winning streak to four matches when it visits Hapoel Beersheba.
Kiryat Shmona and Beersheba will also meet in the Toto Cup semifinals in January after beating Ashdod SC and Bnei Sakhnin, respectively.
However, Wednesday’s 1-0 Toto Cup defeat to Beersheba will have done little to dent confidence levels at the high-flying Sakhnin, which visits Hapoel Acre in a tricky road match on Saturday.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Ashdod.
Betar Jerusalem faces Ramat Hasharon in Ramat Gan on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bnei Yehuda on Monday.