Hapoel Beersheba midfielder John Ogu, whose wife is expecting their first child, celebrates in appropriate manner after scoring his team’s equalizer in last night’s 4-1 win over Bnei Sakhnin..
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Hapoel Beersheba kick-started its Premier League title challenge with a confidence- boosting 4-1 victory over Bnei Sakhnin in Netanya on Saturday.
After winning just one of its previous five matches and relinquishing first place to Maccabi Tel Aviv for the first time since last December, Beersheba relieved pressure by overturning an early deficit to return to the summit of the standings for at least 24 hours.
Beersheba moved two points in front of Maccabi, which visits Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.
Firas Mugrabi turned up the heat on an already nervy Beersheba with his opener in the 16th minute, but the visitors needed less than three minutes to equalize through John Ogu. The comeback was completed eight minutes later with Anthony Nwakaeme’s goal, with Maor Buzaglo (72) and Nwakaeme (78) securing the three points in the second half.
“We won after a tough week,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar, whose team extended its unbeaten streak to 26 games by handing Sakhnin just its second defeat in 12 matches. “We were really ready and are very happy with the win, but we still have a long road ahead of us.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be going for its eighth win in the past nine games when it visits Maccabi Haifa. The three-time defending champion needed a dramatic 90th-minute winner from Eran Zahavi to defeat Beitar Jerusalem 3-2 last week. Zahavi took his tally for the season to a record 31 goals, one more than Nissim Elmalich managed in the 1954/55 campaign.
“We aren’t concerning ourselves with Beersheba. They are an excellent team and have been playing like a champion,” said Maccabi forward Tal Ben-Haim. “The fight has been good the whole season and now we are holding the upper hand.”
Meanwhile, the battle against relegation could hardly be tighter, with only one point separating four teams in the fight not to finish in 13th place, which leads to demotion to the National League at the end of the season.
Hapoel Acre (32 points), which visits Bnei Yehuda on Sunday, dropped to 13th on Saturday after being leapfrogged by Hapoel Kfar Saba (33), Ironi Kiryat Shmona (32) and Hapoel Haifa (32).
After going 10 matches without a win, Haifa looks to be hitting its stride at the crucial moment, registering its second straight victory on Saturday after beating the already-relegated Maccabi Netanya 2-1.
Andriy Mischenko gave Netanya the lead after four minutes, but Shlomi Arbeitman (17) and Maxim Plakuschenko (33) handed Haifa a lead it wouldn’t surrender.
Kfar Saba snapped a six-match winless streak with a 1-0 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva courtesy of Ran Itzhak’s penalty in the 21st minute.
Austin Amutu’s equalizer in the 58th minute kept Kiryat Shmona out of the relegation zone, giving the northerners a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Tel Aviv, which took the lead through Aaron Schoenfeld’s header in the 17th minute. Hapoel sits five points above 13th with three matches to play.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem, which has lost three straight matches, hosts Hapoel Ra’anana.