Local Soccer: Haifa has eye on league/cup double as it visits Netanya

Alon Harazi: We want to prove we deserve to win the championship.

Maccabi Haifa 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa travels to play Maccabi Netanya on Saturday in the first of two matches over the next four days which could well determine if the 2008/09 season will be remembered as one of the greatest in club history. Haifa needs just two more points from its remaining two league matches, against Netanya on Saturday and against Betar Jerusalem next week, to claim a sixth championship in nine years. As well, on Tuesday the club can complete a second double in its history when it faces Jerusalem in the State Cup final at National Stadium in Ramat Gan. Elisha Levy's team would love to enter the cup final having wrapped up the league title, but for that to happen it will need to defeat Netanya, something it has failed to do in three matches this season. Two of Haifa's four league losses this year have come against Netanya, and Haifa needed a penalty shootout to get the better of Lothar Matthaus's team in the State Cup semifinal after regulation and extra-time both ended in a 1-1 draw. "We have got plenty to prove in this match as we've lost to Netanya twice this season," Haifa's veteran defender Alon Harazi said on Thursday about the team's desire to secure the league title over the weekend. "We want to prove we deserve to win the championship and we'll be coming to Netanya to clinch the title." Haifa was very impressive in its 1-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday, which moved it to the brink of taking an 11th championship in club history, but Harazi is adamant no one at the club is getting carried away just yet. "As long as there's still a theoretical chance we can fail to claim the title, we need to remain grounded," Harazi explained. "We spoke about this among ourselves in the dressing room after the win over Hapoel and we know it's not over until it's over." Despite being the dominant force in Israeli soccer since the turn of the century, Haifa was not one of the title favorites ahead of the season. "No one at the club was speaking about winning a double or any title for that matter at the start of the season," Harazi said. "We were coming off two disappointing seasons and our goal was to lower our profile and get the job done on the pitch rather than speak about it off it." In other action, Ironi Kiryat Shmona can put some distance between itself and rock-bottom Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan when it visits Bnei Yehuda on Saturday. Kiryat Shmona, which is currently tied on 26 points with Hakoach, climbed off the bottom of the table with a 2-0 victory over Jerusalem last week and with Ramat Gan not visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv until Monday night, can pile the pressure on its relegation rival with a third straight win on Saturday. Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin can secure itself another season of Premier League soccer when it plays Betar at Teddy Stadium, while Ashdod SC hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva and Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Petah Tikva.