Kiryat Shmona maintains six-point gap with draw

Northerners extend unbeaten streak to 17 at Ashdod thanks to another clean sheet.

Ahmed Abed (R), Paty Yeye_311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ahmed Abed (R), Paty Yeye_311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona extended its unbeaten run to 17 matches on Monday night, drawing 0-0 at Ashdod SC to maintain a six-point gap at the top of the Premier League standings.
The northerners controlled the showdown in which scoring chances were at a premium, although the best opportunity of the match fell to Ashdod’s Idan Shriki, who was denied by an excellent instinctive save from goalkeeper Danny Amos in the 55th minute.
Amos took his clean-sheet streak to five matches on Monday, with the stingy northerners conceding just two goals over their past 11 encounters.
“It is very difficult to play in Ashdod and I feel we have taken another significant step forward with this result,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben- Shimon, who was missing suspended Shimon Abu-Hazeira and the injured William Njovu and Barak Badash.
“Nevertheless, I think we are a far further from claiming the championship than people think. We can do it, but we are only at the halfway mark and there are still many more matches to play.”
Ashdod at least snapped Kiryat Shmona’s seven-match winning streak, but it squandered a golden opportunity to close the gap on Ben- Shimon’s men, moving back into second place above Hapoel Tel Aviv with the single point.
“It is very difficult to play against Kiryat Shmona,” said Ashdod coach Yossi Mizrahi, whose team extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games. “We didn’t show up in the first half and didn’t play according to our game plan. We turned over the ball a lot, but if we managed not to lose in a match like this than we are doing okay. “There will be many ups and downs in the remainder of the season and the most consistent team will be the one to prevail.”
Kiryat Shmona midfielder Ravid Gazal was satisfied with the result. “I’m never happy with a draw, but this was a fair result,” he said. “We believe we can win the title, but no team takes the championship in January.”
In other soccer news, Betar Jerusalem’s situation took another turn for the worst on Monday after captain Aviram Bruchian joined Poland’s Polonia Warsaw.
The 26-year-old midfielder led his team out onto the field for the last time on Sunday when it suffered a humbling 3-0 defeat at Hapoel Haifa, dropping into the relegation zone for the first time this season.
Since beginning the season with three wins in four games, Betar has claimed just one victory in 15 matches.
Bruchian started in 17 of the team’s 19 matches, but Betar will now have to manage without him, agreeing to release the player, who would have been out of contract at the end of the season, for around 150,000 euros in compensation.
Jerusalem is hoping to use that money and the funds freed up from Bruchian’s lucrative contract to strengthen its squad ahead of what promises to be a very difficult second half to the season.
“I’m really happy. I have realized a childhood dream,” Bruchian said. “I would like to thank Betar and its wonderful crowd. I wish Betar good luck and want to see it remain in the league more than anyone else.”
Bruchian becomes the fifth Israeli in the Polish league, which will only return from its winter break in mid- February, joining Maor Melikson and Dudu Biton, who both play at Wisla Krakow and Liran Cohen (Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biala) and Moshe Ohayon (Legia Warsaw), whom Betar is targeting as a replacement for its departed captain.