Hap TA hosts Ra’anana as it continues climb back up

After a rocky start to the season, Hapoel Tel Aviv recovers with two convincing wins in a row.

Hapoel Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Two convincing wins in a row have turned Hapoel Tel Aviv’s rocky start to the season into a distant memory.
However, Ran Ben-Shimon’s men still can’t afford any more slip-ups as they attempt to chase down the rampant Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Hapoel got off to its worst start in six years after picking up just a single point from its first two matches while failing to score a goal. Its local struggles came on the back of a shock exit in the third round of the Europa League qualifiers, putting Ben-Shimon under intense pressure with the season barely underway.
However, a 3-1 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva followed by last week’s 4-0 triumph at Hapoel Haifa have catapulted Hapoel up to fifth place in the standings and got the Reds feeling optimistic once more regarding their chances of claiming the league title.
After failing to start a single match for Hapoel since December 2012 due to injuries, midfielder Gili Vermut has been included in the team’s starting 11 in the last two games and is slowly regaining the form that saw him lead the team to the championship in 2009/10.
“I just do my part. I don’t deserve the credit for the recent wins,” said Vermut.
“The team has matured and improved with time and I’m happy to have helped. We are slowly molding and I hope we can build on this momentum.”
Despite Maccabi Tel Aviv’s recordbreaking start to the season, becoming the first team ever to win its first four matches without conceding a goal, Vermut believes Hapoel can keep pace with the reigning champion, but only if it wins matches like Saturday’s against Hapoel Ra’anana at Bloomfield Stadium.
“It was obvious from the start that Maccabi and Hapoel will battle it out at the top,” he said.
“Maccabi looks unbeaten now, but we need to focus on our own play and make sure we win every weekend. Playing Ra’anana will not be easy at all as they have yet to lose this season. This is a tough team that doesn’t give up and always plays until the final whistle.”
Ra’anana has been the surprise package of the season so far, picking up eight out of a possible 12 points to date, drawing 2-2 with Beitar Jerusalem on Sunday.
Hapoel can close to within two points of the summit on Saturday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv not visiting Ashdod SC until Sunday night, while the also-perfect Hapoel Beersheba faces Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium later Sunday.
In other action on Saturday, Beitar Jerusalem will expect to return to winning ways when it visits rock-bottom Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Beitar has recorded just one win from its first four matches, but will have an ideal opportunity to get back on track versus a floundering Ramat Hasharon side, which has lost all four of its games by a combined goal difference of 2-12.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Acre hosts Hapoel Haifa, Bnei Sakhnin visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Bnei Yehuda welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva.