By ALLON SINAI
After a bitterly disappointing first half to the season, Betar Jerusalem will be hoping its coaching change will result in a change in performance as well, starting with Saturday’s visit to Hapoel Beersheba.With just five wins from 18 matches, coach Uri Malmilian finally admitted on Monday that his time at Betar was doomed to failure, and chairman Itzik Kornfein quickly brought in Roni Levy as a replacement.Betar has won just once in its past five matches, losing its last two, and Levy could have hoped for an easier first match than a trip down south to Beersheba.Jerusalem’s biggest win under Malmilian was a 5-1 thrashing of Beersheba at Teddy Stadium. However, Nir Klinger’s team has since found its way, and remained in the midst of the battle for a place in the top-six playoffs after recording an impressive 2-2 draw with 10-men at Maccabi Haifa last week.“Beersheba is a tough opponent both home and away, and we are facing a very difficult match,” said Levy, who guided Maccabi Haifa to three straight championships between 2004 and 2006, but has experienced little success since. “We are embarking on a new era and I’m sure we will see a committed and well-organized Betar.”Levy is confident he can turn things around at Betar, but has stressed that it won’t happen overnight.“It is a process which takes time,” Levy said. “But I know I’m going to be judged from the start. I’ve always aspired to coach Betar. This is a big club and the players now understand the current situation.”AdvertisementLevy will be hoping his first match in charge will be just as successful as Moti Ivanir’s at Maccabi Tel Aviv after replacing Avi Nimni as coach last week.Maccabi beat Bnei Sakhnin 3-1 at Doha Stadium and will be expected to make it two wins in a row when it hosts Ashdod SC on Saturday.However, Ashdod has played some of its best soccer of the season in recent weeks, winning three of its last four league games.Maccabi Haifa had its six-match winning streak snapped by Beersheba last week and subsequently also lost first position to Hapoel Tel Aviv.With Hapoel not visiting Ironi Kiryat Shmona until Monday, Haifa can return to the top of the standings at least for 48 hours when it hosts Bnei Yehuda at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday.While it has won eight of nine matches on the road, Haifa has relatively struggled at home, taking all three points in only four of nine contests.“I am well aware of our problems at home,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said.“Teams tend to play a defensive lineup when they come to Kiryat Eliezer and we need to be a lot more patient so we won’t be surprised like we were against Beersheba.”Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva, Hapoel Ramat Gan visits Hapoel Acre and Hapoel Ashkelon welcomes Hapoel Haifa. Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday.
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