Sinai Says: Fairly or not, heat turned up high on Hap TA coach Ben-Shimon

"He still ended another match with the desperately dejecting sensation that he is forever doomed to fail."

Hapoel Tel Aviv's Ran Ben-Shimon. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv's Ran Ben-Shimon.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ran Ben-Shimon must have felt like the entire world had decided to conspire against him.
Finally, his team performed the way he had been hoping for since the start of the season, and yet, he still ended another match with the desperately dejecting sensation that he is forever doomed to fail.
Ben-Shimon’s Hapoel Tel Aviv thoroughly dominated Hapoel Beersheba for the first 40 minutes of Monday night’s showdown at Bloomfield Stadium. But it struggled to create scoring opportunities and entered the halftime interval trailing 1-0 after a rare break forward by the southerners was clinically completed by Dovev Gabai in the 42nd minute.
Ben-Shimon’s boys nevertheless burst out of the gates at the start of the second half and looked to have gotten back on track after Ramzi Sfuri netted a deserved equalizer six minutes after the break.
However, just when it seemed that Hapoel was on course to return to winning ways, Lior Levy unintentionally, and unfortunately, handled the ball in the box, allowing Gabai to fire Beersheba back into the lead after just five minutes.
The hosts still refused to drop their heads – until they conceded the third goal, that is.
Referee Orel Greenfeld harshly adjudged that Orel Dgani had fouled Gabai in the box and the striker stepped up in the 71st minute to complete a hat-trick and secure Beersheba a memorable victory.
Tel Aviv had every reason to feel snake-bitten, with bad luck and refereeing decisions playing a major role in its defeat.
Ben-Shimon was quick to claim that the better team had lost, but he knew all too well that yet again he would be the one forced to shoulder much of the blame.
The fact that Hapoel is currently closer to Hapoel Ramat Hasharon and the relegation zone (nine points) than it is to Bnei Sakhnin in third place (10 points) is damning evidence of how poor Tel Aviv’s start to the season has been.
Inevitably, it is the coach who is held responsible for disappointing results, something Ben-Shimon is all too well aware of.
Ben-Shimon was sacked by Maccabi Tel Aviv just eight matches into the 2008/09 season, failing to live up to the high expectations.
It is safe to say that he would not currently be the Hapoel coach if the club could afford to fire him.
Hapoel’s failure to reach the Europa League group stage this season has left a gaping hole in the club’s budget, which would only mushroom should it also need to compensate Ben-Shimon for an unceremonious dismissal.
The coach preaches each and every week about the process the team is undergoing and that setbacks are all part of the course, but he cannot argue with the results.
Hapoel is expected to challenge for the championship each and every season, especially when it completely overhauls its squad the way it did last summer. The Reds brought in 12 new senior players in the off-season, including star striker Itay Shechter, to join a roster which already included the likes of Israel internationals Gili Vermut and Omer Damari.
Ben-Shimon looked to be the ideal man to mold the group into a winning team, but has got very little to show for his efforts so far.
Hapoel has recorded just five wins from its first 15 matches of the campaign, losing for the sixth time on Monday. With 19 points, seventh-placed Hapoel has not only got half the points of league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv, but is also quickly losing touch with the teams in second and third place, which lead to Europa League qualification.
Second-placed Beersheba moved 15 points clear of Hapoel with Monday’s win, while Sakhnin in third place is already 10 points ahead of the reds.
Hapoel played two of its best matches of the season in recent weeks, but still ended up losing 1-0 to Maccabi in the derby and to Beersheba at Bloomfield.
The takeover of the club by former Member of Knesset Haim Ramon and his ownership group in July 2012 was supposed to have steadied the ship following the Eli Tabib era.
However, it seems that very little has changed in the chaotic running of the club, with Ramon desperate to off-load Hapoel to the highest bidder at the first opportunity.
All of this only turns up the heat on Ben-Shimon, who is often left alone in the line of fire.
Ben-Shimon proved his pedigree by leading Ironi Kiryat Shmona to an historic championship in the 2011/12 season. But he clearly understands that should he add a resounding failure at Hapoel to the one he has already experienced at Maccabi Tel Aviv, he may never get another chance at a big club.
Ben-Shimon keeps insisting that he has no intention of leaving before the end of the season and knows that his future as a coach may depend on the results he registers with Hapoel over the next five months.
Ben-Shimon’s hefty contract is saving Ramon and his cronies from themselves as it has so far prevented them from making the mistake of sacking the coach.
The results to date clearly show that Ben-Shimon has fallen well short of expectations.
But most soccer aficionados would agree that Ben-Shimon remains one of Israel’s best coaches, meaning he should be afforded at least until the end of the season to see what he can achieve with Hapoel.
There is no quick-fix to the situation at the club and Ben-Shimon crucially still has the faith of the dressing room.
The club’s management and fans are no longer deluding themselves that Hapoel will fight for the championship this season.
Everyone has been forced to reassess their goals, including Ben-Shimon.
Firing the coach would allow many people to get rid of their frustrations, but would not bring any benefit to the club in the short or the long term.
Ben-Shimon continues to maintain a calm demeanor and say all the right things, and perhaps more than anything else, Hapoel’s crisis has proven that he can handle the pressure of the spotlight.
There are many changes Hapoel needs to be making this week. The coach’s position is not one of them.