Local Soccer: Haifa looks to salvage pride against Betar

The only consistent performers at Kiryat Eliezer this season have been the fans, who persistently cry for the sacking of coach Roni Levy.

mac haifa 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
mac haifa 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa's league campaign so far has been nothing short of torrid. The proud club, which dominated the Premier League not so long ago, was supposed to be Betar Jerusalem's main challenger for the title, but has lost seven of its 22 matches to date and trails the reigning champion by a massive 16 points. The team has won just once in its last six matches and the only consistent performers at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium this season have been the fans, who persistently cry for the sacking of coach Roni Levy. With the way the team has been playing and the fact that there are only 11 more games to play this season, nobody at Maccabi has any illusions of catching Betar. But on Saturday the side has at least got a chance to restore some of its lost pride when it hosts Jerusalem at Kiryat Eliezer. The teams met at Teddy Stadium just over two weeks ago, with Betar winning 1-0 thanks to an Amit Ben-Shushan goal. Haifa goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch believes that, despite the defeat, Maccabi was the better side at Teddy, but nevertheless conceded on Thursday that Haifa deserves no better than its current fifth position in the standings. "When you're at a club of the stature of Maccabi Haifa you must play for the pride of the club and the fans in every match," Davidovitch said. "We were better than Betar at Teddy, but things didn't work out for us. Let's hope they do this time. We've disappointed ourselves this season. We began our campaign poorly and we also had some bad matches later on. We simply don't deserve to win the championship." Of the fans abuse towards his coach, Davidovitch said: "We demand that the supporters stop swearing and throwing objects at Levy. I've said before that the fans have a right to voice their opinion, but they must do so in suitable fashion." Betar will be without suspended defenders Yoav Ziv and Cristian Alvarez on Saturday, but in-form midfielder Idan Tal is expected to be in the line-up, despite his bust-up with coach Yitzhak Schum during the team's 1-1 draw with Hapoel Kfar Saba last week. Tal was substituted for Aviram Bruchian in the 68th minute of the match after ignoring instructions given to him by Schum a minute earlier and also rebuffed the coach's outreached hand when he walked past him on his way to the bench. "We all make mistakes and you need to know how to say sorry," Tal said on Thursday. "In Europe these things happen every training session. You argue with the coach, but a day later you're hugging each other again." Second-placed Maccabi Netanya visits fourth-placed Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday in a match that could have serious implications on the battle for UEFA Cup qualification. Both teams have struggled in recent weeks, with Netanya winning once in its last four matches and Sakhnin once in its last five. Also Saturday: Ironi Kiryat Shmona vs Bnei Yehuda; Hapoel Kfar Saba vs Maccabi Herzliya; Maccabi Petah Tikva vs Ashdod SC. On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv in the big derby at Bloomfield Stadium.