Hap TA mustn’t overlook Beersheba

Betar visits Ashdod looking for first victory in more than a month; league-leading Kiryat Shmona takes on Acre.

Zehavi 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Zehavi 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
With a Champions League match against Schalke 04 looming large, Hapoel Tel Aviv will have to maintain its focus on Saturday night if it’s to get the better of Hapoel Beersheba at National Stadium in Ramat Gan and claim its fourth straight Premier League victory.
After winning just one of its first four league matches, the reigning champion has seemingly got its title defense back on track, although it has done so with very mediocre soccer.
Hapoel was the second-best team for much of its 2-1 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva on Sunday, but clinched the three points thanks to some good fortune and Salim Toama’s 90th-minute strike.
There was, however, also some bad news from Sunday’s encounter, with star striker Itai Shechter suffering a slight tear in his right thigh, ruling him out of Saturday’s match and next Tuesday’s showdown with Schalke at Bloomfield Stadium, which is currently not hosting matches as its pitch is being resurfaced.
Out-of-form Ben Sahar is expected to take Shechter’s place in the lineup and teamup with Toto Tamuz.
Beersheba only managed a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Hapoel Petah Tikva last week, but is unbeaten in more than a month since its 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium.
Betar hasn’t won since that match, recording a poor 0-0 home draw against a struggling Bnei Sakhnin this past Monday.
Jerusalem has got just five points from its first seven matches, but despite languishing in 13th position, coach Uri Malmilian is optimistic the team will begin its recovery at Ashdod SC on Saturday.
“We have to understand that this Betar team is completely different to the Betar team of four years ago,” Malmilian said. “The name of the club has remained but everything else has changed. I’m still not pleased with what I’m seeing, but we are a different team since our fourth match of the season and with time we will grow in confidence.”
Despite only drawing 2-2 with Hapoel Ashkelon last week, Ironi Kiryat Shmona continues to lead the standings and will be looking to ensure it does so for at least another week with a victory at Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
Acre has won two of its past three matches, defeating Bnei Yehuda 3-1 last week.
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehuda hosts Sakhnin, Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Hapoel Ramat Gan and Hapoel Ashkelon welcomes Maccabi Netanya.
Maccabi Haifa visits Hapoel Petah Tikva on Sunday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv going to Hapoel Haifa on Monday.