Welcome to the weekly Israeli football Roundup! Each week I’ll bring you the top ten stories from around the Israeli football scene. And here’s this week’s selection!
1- Beitar Jerusalem is scorching hot. The Yellow-and-Black continue to win as they’ve now picked up a W in five out of their last six games beating the likes of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bnei Sakhnin and Maccabi Haifa AWAY(!) plus taking a “home” match at The Moshava against Hapoel Raanana. Winner League rookie Head Coach Slobodan Drapic has found the winning formula and has been able to use the pieces that owner Eli Tabib gave him to mold the club into a fun and attractive attacking football side.
The Ukranian born, Australian striker Nikita Rukavytsya has been a constant threat up front with youngster Omer Atzili constantly showing off his football wares to the fans, Beitar hasn’t been this fun a side to watch in many years. With the addition of veteran midfielder Dan Einbinder from Maccabi Tel Aviv, the level of professionalism in around the lockerroom has increased to levels unheard of in the past.
Can we dare say that this Beitar team can threaten for the league championship? That’s still unclear, but with a break coming up management should take a deep hard look at how they can strengthen the team during the January transfer window because this week off will be the last until March. That’s going to be four months in a row of matches week in and week out to go with the Toto and State Cup. It’s still along season ahead.
2- Can Roni Levy and Maccabi Haifa sink any lower? Ever since The Greens won the league title in 2010/11 it’s been downhill for owner Yakov Shachar being unable to find the winning formula. Haifa sits in 13th place with 9 points after 10 matches and there seems to be something seriously wrong with not just the club but the whole system in place at Sammy Ofer Stadium. The club has money? Check! Fans? Check! Professional coach? Check! Check! Then what’s wrong with Haifa?
There are a number of factors that could be effecting the Greens this season starting with the much maligned captain Yossi Benayoun. The once phenomenal Israeli great has been injured off and on over the last two season since coming back to Haifa. Looked at as some sort of savior he’s been nothing even close to the player we all once knew. His decline has had a effect on the whole team top to bottom. Along with the problems he’s had with the fans the constant publicity surrounding him hasn’t helped Haifa one bit in trying to right the ship.
Another factor is the lockerroom. There is definitely a few different pools of players with some being happy and others not. This division within is tearing the team apart. I can certainly understand why Itay Shecter’s unhappy. He’s been a shell of the player that used to rip apart defenses. Hen Ezra being benched won’t score any brownie points with him as the speedy midfielder has not been part of Levy’s plans this year. Last night Shachar gave Levy the vote of confidence that he will remain the coach for the balance of the season and that he’ll be able to make changes in January. This soap opera is nowhere’s near finished. To be continued…
3- Hapoel Tel Aviv has finally, yes finally named a new coach after letting go Spaniard Cesar Mendiondo months ago. Guy Levy will take over as the new Reds boss as interim coach and former Hapoel stalwart captain Walid Badir will move back to being the assistant. It took Amir Kabiri some time to find a replacement but Levy was worth the wait. The new head man last manned the sidelines at Beitar Jerusalem for the second half of the season and was able to do wonders especially with the younger players. Hapoel has a rag tag collection of veterans and youngsters plus a number of foreigners who will be able to benefit from his expertise.
4- The break will be Maccabi Tel Aviv’s best friend as the team has plenty of players who need the time off to heal and relax. From non-stop matches since July and a training camp that started mid-June it’s been one game after the other. Between Europe, league, Toto Cup and National Team duty some of the Yellow-and-Blue players are just simply wiped out. Sure there are players who haven’t seen the same minutes Eran Zahavi, Tal Ben Chaim or Eitan Tibi have, but these two weeks will give the team a chance to get to know each other again and a time to rebuild the squad. With Igiebor coming back into the fold and the time to all work together, this break couldn’t have come at a better time for coach Slavisa Jokanovic. Netanya took the game to Maccabi on Saturday night and even though the home side collected the three points everyone in the stadium could see that the Yellow-and-Blue are in desperate need of some time off to collect themselves and move forward once again. There’s still a long season ahead.
5- There has officially been a Shlomi Arbeitman sighting! Finally the much maligned striker has scored a goal and a) it couldn’t have come at a better time & b) IT WAS SOME GOAL! Arbeitman scored the winning goal against Hapoel Haifa at Toto-Turner Stadium in a 1:0 win that kept the southern city side in first place on goal differential. But it was also the way he scored via a bicycle kick with his back to the goal dead center in the middle of the box taking that one in a million chance shots that somehow hits pay dirt. The goal was Arbeitman’s first since February and it launched him back into the minds of football fans across the country that had forgotten about the enigmatic marksman. Beer Sheva is playing good football right now and the race for the title this year will be interesting as coach Barak Bachar keeps pressing the right buttons for owner Alona Barkat’s club.
6- Reuven Atar was named Maccabi Netanya coach for the get this, the 5th time! Yes, he’s been the head man on five different occasions for the Diamond City side and the fans can’t wait for him to take over. For some reason the one time Israeli great Atar has always been comfortable in Netanya but couldn’t find his way at Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Haifa or even in Beitar where his 3rd place finish under the then owner Arkady Gaydamak was not enough to go along with his Israel State Cup title. After 9 matches under Shlomi Dura it’s now time to see what Atar can get out of the players he has at his disposal.
7- Kiryat Shemona sits in 4th place and has drawn 6 times this seasons including the last 3 games in a row by scores of 2:2, 0:0 & 0:0. Methinks that if Salih Hasarma wants to stay around the upper playoffs he’s going to have to find a) a scorer and b) some wins or else this team will not be having around the top of the table for very long. Of course Inter Milan seems to be doing just fine tied for first place with 27 points in 12 goals having scored just 12 goals!
8- The on again off again relationship between Ran Ben Shimon and Maccabi Petach Tikva ownership and former IFA head Avi Luzon. To top off the already frosty relations the team is in druthers having won the first four matches of the year and not winning in the last six. That’s certainly not going to help Ben Shimon in his quest to smooth things over with ownership.
9- Bnei Yehuda has quietly picked up 14 points this year and it should have been more had they not given up a very late tying goal to Bnei Sakhnin. Yossi Abuksis continues to work his squad together and has bitten immense production from Nigerian Jude Nworuh who not only scored both goals in their 2:2 draw away at Sakhnin but has already played very good football in less than a month in Israel.
10- Relegated side Ashdod took a massive hit when owner Jackie Ben Zaquen was sentenced to three years behind bars for stock fraud. Things where bad for Ashdod now they are even worse.