Local Soccer: Haifa hosts Kiryat Shmona

Team aims to bounce back from Netanya loss.

Mac Haifa 298.88 (photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Mac Haifa 298.88
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Maccabi Haifa will enter a match on the back of a defeat for the first time this season, when it hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday. A 3-2 loss at the hands of Maccabi Netanya at Kiryat Eliezer on Monday not only saw Haifa drop to second position in the standings, but meant the team relinquished its unbeaten start to the season. Elisha Levy's side had been rolling ever since its 3-1 victory over Ashdod SC in the season opener and had won four straight matches until last week. However, the loss to Netanya put the team in a position it has yet to experience this season and Haifa's recovery skills will be tested for the first time against Kiryat Shmona. "The result against Netanya was disappointing," Haifa coach Levy said. "Netanya took advantage of our mistakes and we must be more focused on Saturday. "Kiryat Shmona is a very dangerous team, but I hope we will know how to claim all three points." Avi Nimni's Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Ashdod SC at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday, looking to claim a second straight victory. Maccabi was far from impressive in Nimni's debut on the sideline last week, but crucially still managed to defeat Hapoel Petah Tikva 1-0 on the road. At Bloomfield, Nimni will be hoping for an improved performance as well as a victory against Ashdod, which has lost four of its five away matches this season. "Ashdod is a very good attacking team, but our fans expect us to win and I'm sure we will," Nimni's assistant Marko Balbul said. Despite its poor start to the season, Hapoel Tel Aviv is just seven points behind Netanya and Saturday's trip to Bnei Sakhnin is an excellent opportunity to close further ground on the leading pack. Hapoel has improved in recent weeks and will be confident of defeating a Sakhnin side which has picked up just one point in its five home matches this season, and which will be guided by new coach Eyal Lachman for the first time on Saturday. Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Petah Tikva will welcome back from suspension the Premier League's leading scorer Shimon Abuhatzira when it visits Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan. On Monday, Maccabi Netanya can open a 13-point cushion over Betar Jerusalem when it hosts the two-time defending champion in The Box. Since Betar owner Arkadi Gaydamak failed miserably in his bid to become mayor of Jerusalem, rumors that he is planning to give up on the club have been flying around the local soccer scene. Jerusalem's predicament worsened a little this week when the yellow and black was defeated 2-0 by Maccabi Netanya in the Toto Cup on Wednesday. The result ensured that Betar did not make it to the semifinal stage of the League Cup competition which it reached the final of last season.