Mac Haifa chairman Shahar stands by under-fire coach Levy
Haifa to look to keep alive its championship hopes when it visits Maccabi Tel Aviv.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Haifa owner Jacob Shahar announced on Sunday that Elisha Levy will continue to guide the team next season regardless of the eventual outcome of the Premier League title race.Levy led Haifa to the league title last year and guided the team to the Champions League group stage for the second time in club history earlier this season.However, in recent weeks there was growing speculation that Shahar might choose to bring in a new coach ahead of the next campaign, especially after Haifa fell to second position in the standings last week following a 1-0 home defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv.Despite the loss and the prospect of ending the season empty handed, Shahar decided to stand by his coach and Levy will be at the helm once more next season, his third at the club.On Monday, Haifa will look to keep alive its championship hopes when it visits Maccabi Tel Aviv.Haifa trails Hapoel Tel Aviv by three points, with the Reds also having a superior goal difference.Meanwhile, Hapoel Beersheba’s future seems secure once more after owner Alona Barkat announced on Sunday that she will continue to support the club, two months after declaring she will leave at the end of the season.AdvertisementBarkat made the surprise statement in March following coach Guy Azuri’s resignation after he was driven off the road by disgruntled fans.However, on Sunday, Israeli soccer’s only female owner said that Beersheba fans have changed in the past couple of months, convincing her to continue to bankroll the club.“Two months ago I felt that the change I had hoped to bring to the club would not come about, but since then there has been a real shift among our supporters,” said Barkat, who purchased Hapoel Beersheba in the summer of 2007.“The fans have never stopped supporting the team and they understood that they had to change their behavior.”Beersheba concluded its season on Sunday, losing 4-1 to Maccabi Petah Tikva in the final game of the mid-table playoffs.After a goalless first half, the visitors scored twice within five minutes to take a lead they would never lose.Dovev Gabay (52) and a Nadav Kidar own goal (57) opened a promising lead, and even though Barak Badash’s 61st minute strike gave Beersheba some hope, Petah Tikva’s Tal Ben-Haim clinched the victory by scoring twice in the final seven minutes of the match.In other news, Israel national team coach Luis Fernandez returned tothe country on Sunday and is expected to attend Monday’s Tel Aviv vsHaifa game at Bloomfield.While there had been question marks over whether Fernandez had signed acontract with the IFA, the Frenchman said everything was in order.“I am happy to arrive here and I expect to start work immediately,” hesaid at Ben-Gurion airport. “There is a lot of work to do but I have alot of motivation.”Fernandez confirmed that Tal Banin is his preferred choice as assistant coach.On TV: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Maccabi Haifa (live at 8 p.m. on Channel 1)
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