Maccabi TA desperate to turn it around

Interim coach Nir Levine looks to notch first win at the helm for yellow-and-blue.

MOUSSA KONATE 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Considering all that has transpired in recent days, Maccabi Tel Aviv would be delighted to simply settle for a point when it hosts Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium on Saturday evening.
A day after seeing his team drop to its fourth Premier League defeat in a row with a 2-0 loss at Hapoel Haifa, Maccabi owner Mitch Goldhar called coach Moti Ivanir on Monday to notify him that he is sacked.
Maccabi began the season superbly, winning five of its first six league matches and reaching the Europea League group stage.
However, the yellow-and-blue has completely lost its way since, suffering humbling defeats in European play, but far more concerning, winning just one of its past eight league games, losing its last four on the trot.
Pressure levels at Kiryat Shalom reached ridiculous heights and rifts between the coaching staff and players and between different groups of players in the squad tore the team apart.
Ivanir seemed helpless when speaking after the defeat to Haifa, and less than a year since returning to his boyhood club as a savior, he was fired in a transcontinental phone call, just like his predecessor Avi Nimni.
Youth department director of football Nir Levine has been put in charge of the team on an interim basis and he is hoping to help it finally stop the rot on Saturday.
“I’m here to try and help the team play better and I hope that happens on Saturday,” said Levine, whose team hosts Netanya at Teddy and not at Bloomfield Stadium due to a punishment handed down by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court for its fans unruliness.
“The team has excellent players and there is a lot of potential. The team is starting anew and I hope I can help it look better. Maccabi should be among the top teams and that is our target. It wouldn’t be serious to talk about long term targets at the moment.”
Netanya has also suffered from a dip in form in recent weeks, winning just once in its past five matches after beginning the season in scintillating fashion.
Nevertheless, there is no sense of crisis at the humble Netanya and midfielder Ben Binyamin is hoping to compound the misery on the yellow-and-blue in Teddy.
“We didn’t show enough commitment in our last match,” said Binyamin, with Netanya falling to a 2-0 home defeat to Hapoel Ramat Hasharon last week. “We don’t care about Maccabi Tel Aviv’s situation.
They will be playing without a permanent coach, but they will be desperate to get back to winning ways.”
Reigning-champion Maccabi Haifa is in danger of losing touch with the top of the table should it fail to defeat Hapoel Haifa in the derby at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday.
Haifa’s 3-0 defeat at Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday saw it drop eight points behind the league-leader, but the Greens have got a chance to put a little bit of pressure on the Reds with three points on Saturday.
Hapoel Tel Aviv doesn’t play until Monday night when it visits secondplaced Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Hapoel Haifa won just its second match of the season when it beat Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday, with Tal Banin getting his tenure at the club off to a dream start after replacing Nitzan Shirazi.
However, Hapoel hasn’t defeated its cross-town rival in a league derby since 2001, a drought Banin, a former player at both Hapoel and Maccabi Haifa, will be desperate to end on Saturday.
The hottest team in the league in recent weeks has been Ashdod SC, which has won four straight matches, but faces a tricky road game at Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Beersheba goes for its second straight win when it visits Hapoel Rishon Lezion, Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Acre and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon welcomes Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Betar Jerusalem visits Bnei Yehuda on Sunday.