K8 escapes Bloomfield with draw vs Reds

Hap TA still trails runaway league-leaders by 17 points; Ben-Shimon under fire.

SHIMON ABU HAZEIRA scored Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s second goal  (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
SHIMON ABU HAZEIRA scored Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s second goal
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona edged ever closer to an historic Premier League championship on Sunday night, remaining 17 points clear at the top of the standings after drawing 2-2 with second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
Around 1,500 women and children attended the showdown, which was closed to men as a punishment for the violence displayed by Hapoel fans in the Tel Aviv derby, and they got to enjoy superb goals in a relatively exciting encounter.
Roei Gordana gave the hosts the lead in the 31st minute against the run of play, although he was gifted the opener by Kiryat Shmona’s usually reliable goalkeeper Danny Amos who spilled his save into the back of the net.
The northerners got a deserved equalizer two minutes from the break, with Adrian Rochet lobbing the ball for David Solari, who beat ‘keeper Apoula Edel with a composed finish.
Kiryat Shmona took the lead four minutes into the second half thanks to an accurate effort from the edge of the box by Shimon Abu Hazeira, with Rochet once more providing the assist.
However, Tel Aviv would not allow Kiryat Shmona to open a 20-point lead, with Shay Abutbul tying the score with a splendid free kick from 25 meters out in the 58th minute.
Despite closing on the championship, Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon spent much of his postmatch interview answering questions regarding his future after club owner Izzy Sheratzky launched a scathing attack on him earlier in the day.
“I came to Ran in January and offered him to sign a contract extension,” Sheratzky revealed in an interview with Army radio.
“He told me that he wanted an exit clause to Maccabi Haifa and asked for another month and a half to think about it. I went back to him in mid- February and offered him a three-year contract with a 10 percent raise as well as a 600,000 dollars bonus for reaching the Champions League group stage.
“In the meantime, Avram Grant called Jacob Shahar [Maccabi Haifa owner] and tried to convince him to take Ran. Grant then called Maccabi Tel Aviv to inquire for Ran.
“In my last conversation with Ran on March 7 he told me he wants a 30 percent raise so I shook his hand and told him that I will never work with him again.” Sheratzky also accused Ben-Shimon of leaking private meetings to the press.
“In one of our meetings I decided to test Ben-Shimon and told him that if he doesn’t continue, [Bnei Sakhnin coach] Shlomi Dora will replace him,” Sheratzky said. “The next day I see in the paper that Shlomi Dora is one of the candidates to coach the team.”
Ben-Shimon refused to be dragged into a media war following the match.
“I haven’t spoken to any team and it is important for me to end these five years at Kiryat Shmona the best way possible,” he said. “The things being said are not true. I respect Izzy and I want this club to enjoy this triumph as much as possible.”
Ben-Shimon told Kiryat Shmona players that he will not continue on Saturday night and on Sunday Sheratzky met with the squad to confirm the news before telling them that Hapoel Petah Tikva coach Gili Landau will be the team’s coach next season.
The 53-year-old began coaching in 1991 at Hapoel Bat-Yam after an illustrious playing career, but apart from a few matches in charge of Hapoel Tel Aviv at the start of the 2004/05 season, has never guided a top team.
Despite spending the entire season at the foot of the table after beginning the campaign with a nine-point deduction, Landau has received plenty of praise for his work at Hapoel Petah Tikva.