Hapoel Acre have scored in all of their four league matches so far but are still chasing their first league win
By all appearances, Hapoel Acre have found themselves a home in the bottom half of the Israeli Premier League table. Since returning to the top flight five seasons ago, they seem to be jealously guarding their spot a few places above the relegation zone. Just once were they able to reach what was then the mid-table playoffs, on another occasion they finished a close twelfth, but otherwise they have consistently avoided relegation dramas. Last season, under head coach Yuval Na'im, they succeeded in securing their survival before the last week of the season, after producing no great surprises either in the win or the loss column.
Having played out more draws than any other team in 2013/14, Hapoel Acre opened the 2014/15 season in much the same spirit with three consecutive draws of the same scoreline. In matchweek 1 it was a summer signing, midfielder Tzion Tzemach, who scored the equaliser against Hapoel Haifa, just before walking off the pitch with an injury that will keep him out of action for at least half the season. In matchweek 2 it was another new recruit, the Bosnian striker Emir Hadzic signed from Ironi Ramat Hasharon, who brought his side level against Bnei Sakhnin five minutes from time. A week later, Albanian international striker Hamdi Salihi also left it late but scored ten minutes from time to snatch a point against Beitar Jerusalem. Last time out it became a case of all or nothing and the result was the latter as Hapoel Petach Tikva slammed four past their keeper David Goresh without reply.
Head coach: Alon Harazi
Hapoel Acre's new head coach, Alon Harazi, has spent more time on the pitch as a player than in the technical area. He's ranked third in all-time international appearances for Israel and fourth in the Israeli Premier League, but after retiring as a player it took him five years to take up the mantle as head coach. And after four league outings, and an additional four in the "Toto" (League) Cup, Harazi and his team are still looking to raise a "V" after 90 minutes of play. He can take some consolation in the fact that his side have scored in every encounter so far, and that their only loss was the thrashing they took against Hapoel Petach Tikva.
A total of ten players scored goals for Hapoel Acre last season and during the summer transfer window the club adopted an interesting approach. They did everything possible to hold on to their top goalsscorers, the aforementioned Salihi and Brazilian midfielder Juliano Spadacio, who in 13/14 together accounted for thirteen of the team's thirty goals. But six of the remaining eight goalscorers, among them locals Guy Dayan, Ismael Riyan, Steven Cohen and Yossi Asayag, as well as on-loan Croatian winger Mirko Oremus and Serbian striker Nenad Marinkovic, all left the club. Marinkovic returned to former club Partizan Belgrade where he's yet to see action in their current Europa League campaign, Oremus moved on to Hapoel Petah Tikva along with defender Sagiv Cohen. Fellow defender Mahran Abu Raiya joined Hapoel Haifa and Eden Betit and Ro'I Atar both found new homes in Israel's second division.
Joining Hamdi Salihi and Juliano Spadacio in attack is striker Yuval Avidor, who signed on from Hapoel Haifa, and the aforementioned Emir Hadzic, who between them scored eleven goals last season. In addition to the already injured Tzion Tzemach, Hapoel Acre acquired midfielder Yossi Dora, also from Hapoel Haifa, and beefed up the back with two loanees from Hapoel Tel Aviv, Uri Cohen and Ben Turjeman. Head coach Alon Harazi rounded off his squad with two Maccabi Haifa loanees, striker Raz Shtein and midfielder Adi Konstantinos.
Player to look out for: Hamdi Salihi
It's not clear whether the club really had the measure of the Albanian international when he first arrived at Hapoel Acre in last season's winter transfer window. He appeared in thirteen games and scored six of the club's fourteen goals during the same period. One of those strikes was candidate for goal of the season, an overhead effort against Maccabi Haifa, and if it hadn't been for Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Barak Itzhaki's gem against the same club it would probably have taken the prize (no objectivity intended). He's already saved the team a point against Beitar Jerusalem and his "Toto" (League) Cup goal against Maccabi Haifa brings his season total to two in all competitions so far.