Hap TA looks to top Premier League

Maccabi TA loses to Acre; Kiryat Shmona shuts out Netanya

Maccabi Tel Aviv Soccer (photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Maccabi Tel Aviv Soccer
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Hapoel Tel Aviv can climb to the top of the Premier League standings for the first time this season with a victory over Betar Jerusalem at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night.
The reigning-champions began the season with just one win from its first four matches, but has since claimed five straight victories. Three more points against its bitter rival on Sunday will see it move into first place following Maccabi Tel Aviv’s surprise 3-1 defeat at Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona returned to the top for at least 24 hours with a 3-0 victory over Maccabi Netanya, while Maccabi Haifa also got back to winning ways, beating Hapoel Ramat Gan 3-1.
Betar enters Sunday’s match in dire straits after a week of endless speculation regarding the future of the team, particularly coach Uri Malmilian.
Malmilian’s days as Jerusalem coach seemed to be numbered after his team fell to a 2-0 defeat to Hapoel Petah Tikva last Saturday, its sixth loss in nine matches this season.
However, after numerous meetings with club chairman Itzik Kornfein, Malmilian decided to stay at the club, and despite the many rumors that the Betar icon would be releasing several of the side’s players, Malmilian and Kornfein agreed that they would only make changes to the squad in the January transfer window.
“We considered cutting players, but we decided to give everyone another chance,” said Kornfein, who revealed Malmilian offered his resignation several times in the past week.
Despite still being without injured star-striker Itai Shechter, Hapoel will be brimming with confidence entering Sunday’s encounter, with Eli Gutman’s men claiming their fifth straight league victory on Monday with a 2-0 win at Maccabi Haifa.
Maccabi Tel Aviv could have ensured itself on Saturday another week in first place but was instead humbled by Acre.
Arafat Djako scored the opener for the hosts in the 26th minute before Roei Dayan doubled the lead five minutes into the second half. Djako scored his eighth goal of the season in the 73rd minute, securing Acre its fifth win in its last six matches, with Eli Cohen’s team scoring three goals for a fourth consecutive game.
“Acre deserves all the credit because it played excellent soccer,” said Maccabi manager Avi Nimni, who got a meaningless consolation goal from Eliran Atar in the 89th minute.
“We played really poorly and we will have to learn from this match.
We are very disappointed.”
After three matches without a victory, Kiryat Shmona returned to the top of the standings on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 win over Netanya.
Elroei Cohen put the hosts in the driving seat with his second minute goal before doubling Kiryat Shmona’s advantage in the 69th minute.
Wiyam Amashe completed the win with his eight goal of the campaign in the 77th minute, ensuring Netanya dropped to its second straight loss after falling just once in its first eight matches.
Maccabi Haifa only trails Kiryat Shmona by goal-difference after cruising to a 3-1 win at pitiful Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Defender Eyal Meshumar opened the scoring for the Greens in the ninth minute and there could only be one winner after John Culma found the back of the net in the 43rd minute.
Ofir Haim got a goal back for Ramat Gan seven minutes from time, but Shlomi Azulai quickly settled Haifa nerves, scoring in stoppage time.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva beat Hapoel Ashkelon 1-0 on the road thanks to Tal Ben-Haim’s 72nd minute winner, while Eden Ben- Basat's stoppage time equalizer gave Hapoel Haifa a share of the points after a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Beersheba, which took the lead through David Revivo (34).
The match between Bnei Yehuda and Ashdod SC ended in a 0-0 deadlock.