Hapoel TA stumbles out of the gate

Shechter injured; Betar humbled by Netanya in Malmilian’s debut.

Itai Shechter 311 (photo credit: AP)
Itai Shechter 311
(photo credit: AP)
After losing just a single match throughout last season, reigningchampion Hapoel Tel Aviv suffered a shocking 1-0 defeat at Hapoel Haifa in its Premier League 2010/11 opener on Saturday evening.
The defeat was compounded by an injury to striker Itai Shechter, with the star of Tel Aviv’s 3-2 victory over Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League playoffs now a serious doubt for Tuesday’s return leg at Bloomfield Stadium.
“I’m so angry at myself, I shouldn’t have let Shechter play,” said Hapoel coach Eli Gutman, who made five changes from the team which beat Salzburg last Wednesday, but introduced his top-scorer from the substitutes’ bench in the 60th minute. “We asked the Israel Football Association to postpone the match, but there was no one to talk to.”
Despite the fact it rested several of its more significant players, Tel Aviv should have still played far better at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was the team’s best player on the pitch, and had he not been at his best, the final score-line would have been far more humbling.
Sasa Stojanovic scored the only goal of the encounter in the 48th minute, making the most of a terrible lapse by defender Walid Badier.
“I hope we will continue to play like this throughout the season,” said Haifa coach Nitzan Shirazi.
Meanwhile, Uri Malmilian’s tenure at Betar Jerusalem got off to the worse possible start, with Maccabi Netanya thrashing the yellow-and-black 4-1 at the Box.
Betar took the lead through Amit Ben- Shushan (25), but Reuvan Atar’s young team was ahead by the break thanks to strikes by Ahmed Saba (35) and Hen Ezra (40). Man-of-the-match Maor Asor, who provided the assists for the first two goals, scored the third in the 65th minute, with Dela Yampolsky completing the rout 12 minutes later.
“This isn’t what I expected,” said Malmilian, who has finally got his chance at a big club after 15 years of coaching.
“I knew this match would be difficult, but not this difficult. I know where we made mistakes and we will correct them. I believe we will be okay.”
Atar was understandably delighted with his side’s performance.
“I have a good side with young and diligent players,” he said. “We prepared well for the season and we just need to continue this way and let the players enjoy themselves.”
Also Saturday, the Premier League’s new boys got their campaigns off to winning starts.
Last season’s National League champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona beat Bnei Sakhnin 2-0 at home, with Adrian Rochet (7) and Ofir Hemo (83) scoring the goals for the dominant hosts.
Hapoel Ashkelon, beginning only its second-ever season in the top-flight, claimed a well-earned 3-1 home victory over Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Mahmoud Abbas (37) gave Ashkelon the lead and Eric Gawu’s double (59, 77) clinched the win, with Dudu Biton (73) scoring a conciliation goal for the visitors.
In other matches Saturday, John Gregory’s Ashdod SC recorded a 2-1 road victory over Hapoel Acre courtesy of goals from Dimitar Makriev (3) and Idan Shriki (14), with Roei Dayan netting for the hosts.
Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Ramat Gan went home with a point each after a 0- 0 draw at Bloomfield Stadium in Dror Kashtan’s first match back in the Premier League after four years with the Israeli national team.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield in the main match of the first weekend.
Hapoel Beersheba visits Maccabi Petah Tikva in the final game of the first week on Monday.