Soccer: Maccabi, Hapoel pumped for intriguing TA derby

“Don’t play for me, play for your honor and for the honor of this club,” Kornfien tells Betar players.

Pride, points and history will all be on the line in the Tel Aviv derby at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday night.

Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv, with both teams desperate to claim the victory for numerous reasons.

Before Saturday’s Premier League matches, the showdown between Maccabiand Hapoel seemed to be no more than a hotly contested battle for therunners-up position. However, after Maccabi Haifa’s stunning 10 setbackat Maccabi Netanya, both Tel Aviv sides can suddenly see themselveschallenging the defending champion for the title.

Hapoel can only close to within nine points of Haifa with a win, while Maccabi can cut the deficit to 11 points.

But considering the margin from the league-leader will be halved underthe league’s new format ahead of the third round of matches, Haifa maynot be as untouchable as it once seemed.

Making matters even more interesting is the fact that Hapoel canachieve something it has been chasing for decades with a victory onMonday. Hapoel and Maccabi enter the encounter tied on 41 victories inthe meetings between the teams’ since the founding of Israel in 1948.Maccabi had comfortably led the head-tohead standings in recentdecades, but Hapoel’s dominance in the derby in the last few seasonssaw it draw even with the yellow-andblue thanks to the 1-0 victory itclaimed earlier this season.

Both Maccabi and Hapoel enter the mouthwatering match in outstanding form.

Maccabi has won its last six league matches – its longest streak inseven seasons – and is unbeaten in its past 10 games. Hapoel won itslast two matches 4-0 and hasn’t lost in the league in 18 encounters.

Hapoel may have froze in Thursday’s Europa League round of 32 first leg3-0 loss at Rubin Kazan, but in its last eight matches at Bloomfield ithas won seven times and has scored some 30 goals, an average of almostfour a game.

In other action, Bnei Sakhnin claimed its fifth straight victory on Sunday, defeating Hapoel Ramat Gan 3-1.

Sakhnin took the lead after just four minutes thanks to an Eli Leviowngoal and 12 minutes later Brazilian Cadu doubled the advantage.

In the 57th minute, Shay Hadad brought Ramat Gan back into thematch, but 14 minutes later Nastja Ceh secured the victory for Sakhnin,which is now battling to get into the top six playoffs. Amsalem holdsfirst practice as new Betar coach The post-Itzhak Schum era atBetar Jerusalem began on Sunday when former assistant David Amsalemheld his first training session as the new head coach of thefloundering yellow-andblack.

Schum was sacked on Saturday after the 3-2 defeat at Hapoel Haifa, Betar’s ninth loss of the season.

Jerusalem is winless in its last six matches and has claimed all three points only once in its encounters.

The relationship between Schum and the Betar players was on a downwardspiral since the start of the season, resulting in extremely poorperformances on the pitch, which seemed to deteriorate with every weekthat passed.

Betar chairman Itzik Kornfein was hoping toavoid firing Schum and paying him compensation, but Saturday’s resultand display left him with no real other option.

“You are a disgrace,” Kornfien told the playerson Sunday. “Where is your pride? How low can we go? We are just fivepoints from the relegation playoffs. How is this possible with thetalent we have in this team?

“Don’t play for me, play for your honor and for the honor of this club.”

Amsalem said he is first and foremost hoping to help the players regain their lost confidence.

“I feel bad that Schum was fired,” Amsalem said. “Coaching Betar is adream and I hope I can lead the team to a better place.”