Pressure mounts on Malmilian as PT visits

Mac TA hosts Ashkelon hoping to end mini-funk; KS hosts Bnei Yehuda.

Maor Buzaglo 311 (photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Maor Buzaglo 311
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Any other coach would have already been long gone.
But Uri Malmilian isn’t any other coach.
Malmilian has guided Betar Jerusalem to just one win and five points from its first eight Premier League matches, but his eminence as a true Betar icon and one of the greatest players in Israeli history has kept him at the helm of the club from the capital for the time being.
However, should Betar fail to take all three points against Hapoel Petah Tikva at Teddy Stadium on Saturday night, even Malmilian’s legendary status may not be enough to keep him around for another week.
After more than 15 years of coaching, Malmilian finally got his chance at a big club this summer, but even in his worst nightmares he would have not envisioned such a horrendous start to the season.
Being a coach who prides himself on the fact that he has never been fired and is always willing to offer his resignation if his team is underperforming, the thought of leaving must have surely crossed Malmilian’s mind.
However, he also knows that a single victory is all that is needed for Betar to get its league campaign back on track, and there is no better place to start than with a home match against Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Petah Tikva has shown some improvement in the last couple of weeks under the guidance of new coach Yuval Naim, but it is still one of only two winless teams in the league and has lost three of its last four encounters.
The one thing that might play to Petah Tikva’s advantage is the fact that Saturday’s match at Teddy will be played in front of empty stands due to unruliness on the part of the Betar fans in the club’s game against Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium two weeks ago.
At the other end of the standings, Maccabi Tel Aviv has triumphed just once in its last three games after winning four straight matches, recording a disappointing 0-0 draw at Hapoel Haifa on Monday.
Maccabi hosts newly promoted Hapoel Ashkelon at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday, but manager Avi Nimni has warned his players not to underestimate their opponents.
“On paper all our matches should be comfortable,” he said. “But teams give an extra something when they face us and we prepare ourselves for that fact that every match will be difficult.
“We may have more quality than most of the teams in the league, but that doesn’t guarantee us victories. Ashkelon has done well so far this season and we take every opponent seriously.”
Ashkelon suffered only its second loss of the season last week, seeing its fivematch unbeaten run come to an end with a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Maccabi Netanya.
“Maccabi is the clear favorite and will be especially dangerous as it has its back against the wall after its draw in Haifa,” Ashkelon coach Guy Azuri said. “A draw would be a good result for us.”
After winning five of its first six matches, Ironi Kiryat Shmona has stuttered in the past two weeks, drawing with Ashkelon before suffering its first defeat of the season last week, falling 3- 0 at Hapoel Acre.
Kiryat Shmona hosts Bnei Yehuda on Saturday, with Dror Kashtan’s team winning two of its last three encounters.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Haifa, Ashdod SC visits Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Beersheba welcomes Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Netanya hosts Hapoel Acre on Sunday, with Hapoel Tel Aviv visiting Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in a mouthwatering encounter on Monday night.