Soccer: Hapoel Tel Aviv looks to keep winning against Haifa

The last match with Haifa crushed the Reds' confidence and the team went on to lose its next three matches.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Exactly three months ago Hapoel Tel Aviv entered its road match against Maccabi Haifa in a euphoric mood following its first victory of the season, a 1-0 win over arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv. Hapoel was, however, brought down to earth in painful fashion at Kiryat Eliezer stadium, losing 2-0 to Haifa. The defeat crushed the Reds' newly found confidence and the team went on to lose its next three matches. On Saturday, Tel Aviv will look to avoid a similar letdown when it confidently enters a match against Haifa once again, after claiming a 3-1 victory over the yellow-and-blue last Sunday. Hapoel's victory in the derby was its second straight and third in its last five matches. The side has shown consistent progress since Eli Gutman replaced Guy Luzon as coach and can climb all the way to eighth in the standings with another victory at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday. Haifa, on the other hand, has struggled in recent weeks, losing two of its last three matches, including a 1-0 defeat to Betar Jerusalem on Tuesday. Maccabi has lost pace not only with the reigning champion, but also with second-placed Maccabi Netanya and desperately needs to return to winning ways. Much of the criticism for Haifa's mediocre season has been directed at the side's forward Yaniv Katan, the scorer of just 11 goals since returning to the club from West Ham United at the start of the 2006/07 season. "I'm disappointed with myself since returning from England. I haven't lived up to my own expectations," Katan said at Haifa's training complex on Thursday. "Maybe the amount of money I make is the problem, but I've not stolen anything from anyone and gave up quite a bit to play for Maccabi Haifa. Most of the criticism last season was also directed at me, but when Haifa's not doing well you need to know how to cope with this. We won five championships in six years and it's not easy to be at the top every year. Haifa will be back. It's only a matter of time." Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to rebound from its loss to Hapoel when it visits Maccabi Herzliya in a six-point relegation battle. The yellow-and-blue has won only once in its last six matches and is just two points above Ashdod SC and the relegation zone. "We're trying to be positive and not to think about what might happen if we lose for a second straight week," Tel Aviv coach Nir Levin said. "We're realistic and know exactly what our situation is and how important the match in Herzliya is." Ashdod, which won for the first time in 13 matches last week, defeating Bnei Sakhnin 3-1, hosts Hapoel Kfar Saba, which has failed to win in its last five games. Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva and Ironi Kiryat Shmona visits Bnei Yehuda. On Sunday, the top two meet at Teddy Stadium, with Betar hosting Netanya.