Due to recent personal time constraints, I will stop posting on the blog for at least six months to a year. Thanks for your understanding.
Hapoel Tel-Aviv will start its quest to join the UEFA Champions League group stages tomorrow night against Bosnian side Zeljeznicar. While Hapoel won its last three friendly games, they still received arguably the toughest possible draw of the second round. Hapoel has had an interesting off season. They have added several new players including attacking midfielder Yossi Shivhon, central defender Bevan Fransman, and midfielder Romain Rocchi. Hapoel also signed Ghanaian midfielder William Hazo, and goalkeeper Galil Ben-Shanan. Of these five players, it is likely that only Yossi Shivhon will start. Hapoel managed to retain its core of players that brought it the championship in Israel. It is almost certain that goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama will be leaving after his fantastic showing in the world cup. Hapoel already received an offer from FC Porto for one million Euros, but they rejected it. Other than Enyeama it appears that Hapoel will prove to be an even better team this season. Their opponents Zeljeznicar, are the Bosnian Champions and are based out of the city of Sarajevo. Their coach Amar Osim, who is the son of legendary coach Ivica Osim, had many complimentary things to say about Hapoel Tel-Aviv in a press conference held earlier today. However, the Bosnian club should not be underestimated, and I’m sure Hapoel coach Eli Guttman will have his troops ready and motivated. Zeljeznicar’s most notable player of late has been the prolific Edin Dzeko, so Hapoel should be prepared for a tough physical game. Zeljeznicar has won three titles since the end of the Bosnian War, so they are a club with some history. Hapoel are the better team on paper and should win the game, but stranger things have happened.
- Bibras Natcho played the full ninety minutes today in Rubin Kazan’s 3-0 win over Krylia Sovetov.
- Ze’ev Haimovic played sixty-seven minutes for Terek Grozny in their 2-1 loss to Spartak Nalchik.
- Tal Ben-Haim has been linked with a move to Greek giants Panathinaikos. Ben-Haim had a good season last year for Pompey before he was injured for the last part of it.
- Lior Jan has canceled his contract with FK Baku and is trying to return to Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
- Djibril Sidibe has been signed on a two year contract with Maccabi Tel-Aviv. He can play either defensive midfield or central defense.
- Idan Vered will finally transfer to Maccabi Haifa after extensive contract negotiations. Vered is an attacking midfielder with good passing and shooting ability. He has been capped several times already by the National U-21 team.
- Maccabi Haifa are likely to sign Hungarian defender Kristian Vermes after he impressed in trials over the past few days.
- Naor Peser has joined Beitar Jerusalem for trials. His a fullback and previously played for Ahi Natzrat last season.
- Dudu Biton has gone on trials with Maccabi Haifa. The former Raanana striker scored nine goals for the relegated team last season. The rights to the player are owned by Beitar Nes Tubruk.
Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv will move on to face Irish side Shamrock Rovers after squeaking past Armenian side Ulisses. Both sides had numerous chances in the game. Especially in the second half where Bnei Yehuda made some defensive errors due to poor fitness. In the first half Bnei Yehuda dominated possession but ran out of ideas when they came into the final third. Moshe Biton and Oz Raly were both culprits in that regard and could have been scapegoats if Bnei Yehuda lost. Fortunately, at the end of the first half Moshe Biton registered a shot on goal which was saved, and then Omri Afek who was offside followed up and his shot was saved, but finally new boy Shalev Menashe finished for the Shchuna. 1-0 for Bnei Yehuda going into half time. Din Mori was mysteriously subbed off at the beginning of the second half for Ivan Garrido, who is his usual partner in defence. Bnei Yehuda started the second half off well, but didn’t really get anywhere till Liori Tzairi was subbed on for Oz Rali. Bnei Yehuda had several chances after that with Moshe Biton missing an opportunity and substitute Shlomi Levi missing from point blank range. Moshe Biton had several opportunities during the game and missed all of them. The Armenian side did put some pressure on Bnei Yehuda, and Bnei Yehuda’s defenders made several mistakes near the end of the game, which can be blamed on fatigue as they have only played two games in this very new season. However the statistics were 15 shots to 1 and Bnei Yehuda should have been comfortably ahead at the end of the game. Goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba had a great game and made a terrific save near the end. Their opponents next week, Shamrock Rovers, are currently the Irish Premier League leaders, so Bnei Yehuda will really need to bring their A-game. Expect striker Ilya Yavruyan to possibly start next week after a wretched display from Moshe Biton. Liroi Tzairi should also start for Oz Raly; although that may not happen. Overall a poor performance from Bnei Yehuda, and they can’t play like this if they expect to make it into the Europa League group stages.
In the last leg of their Europa League tie, Bnei Yehuda did not impress and will have another chance for a showdown in the next round with Irish side Shamrock Rovers. In a tie three hours from now, Bnei Yehuda will again face off against Armenian side FC Ulisses. The last game ended in a 0-0 tie with both teams having opportunities to score, but with neither team taking advantage of them. Bnei Yehuda has signed another forward in Ilya Yavruyan who could help Bnei Yehuda as they needed a striker in the last game besides Moshe Biton. I think Bnei Yehuda can pull this one out, but they must win or not concede any goals to go through, so they must be on their toes tonight. The game will be held at Bloomfield Stadium and the addition of home support should help Bnei Yehuda to pull out the win.
The Ivory Coast was scheduled to have a friendly with Israel on August 11 2010, but have decided to cancel the match in favor of playing a friendly against Italy on August 10 2010. Israel’s Football Association has appealed to FIFA saying that they signed a contract with the Ivory Coast to play home and away, of which they already played one leg in Ramat-Gan. The game was to be played in France, but according to the Israeli FA the Ivorian FA has made many excuses. The August friendly will be crucial as Israel starts its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign a month later against Malta on September 2. Israel’s FA is also looking at other possible opponents to schedule in lieu of the Ivorians. Stay tuned.