Beersheba preps for Maccabi Tel Aviv with Kiryat Shmona win

Southerners show promise ahead of next week’s showdown with champions; Beitar hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv.

August 24, 2015 05:15
3 minute read.

After a frustrating regular season, Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maor Melikson will aim to kick-start his campaign when his team’s gets the championship playoffs underway on Saturday against Maccabi Petah Tikva.. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

A week before it faces threetime defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Beersheba threw down the gauntlet on Sunday night by opening its Premier League campaign with an impressive 3-1 win at Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

Beersheba was Maccabi’s main rival for the title in each of the past two seasons, but it failed to push the yellow-and-blue all the way, prompting the team to bring in coach Barak Bachar in place of Elisha Levy while strengthening last season’s core with the signings of Maharan Radi, Ben Sahar, Anthony Nwakaeme, Matan Ohayon and Shir Tzedek.

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Beersheba passed its first test with flying colors on Sunday, coming back from a goal down to claim all three points in one of the toughest away fixtures of the season.

After a cagey start by both teams, Kiryat Shmona’s new Brazilian striker Bruno gave the hosts the lead in the 28th minute with a stunning strike from 20 meters out. However, Maor Melikson leveled the score five minutes from the break and Beersheba deserved to move in front when Sahar netted on his league debut in the 58th minute.

The visitors clinched the win in stoppage time through substitute Radi and look to be as ready as possible for the showdown with Maccabi, which will take place at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem as Beersheba’s new Turner Stadium is still not ready.

“To win in Kiryat Shmona is very difficult and the fashion in which we won is very encouraging,” said Bachar, who was sacked by Kiryat Shmona late last season after being blamed for negotiating with Beersheba without notifying the club. “However, this was just our first match and this is only the beginning.”

On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv open their seasons with a mouthwatering showdown at Teddy.

Hapoel has undergone a complete overhaul this summer, with only five players continuing from last season. Spanish coach Cesar Mendiondo was brought in and 14 new players have been signed, with new owner, Amir Kabiri, quickly making his mark.

New Beitar coach Slobodan Drapic is still waiting for reinforcements following the exits of Eli Dasa and Shlomi Azulay, with the club still dealing with the fallout from the fan trouble in Europa League qualification in Charleroi, Belgium last month.

Elsewhere, Maccabi Haifa is already in crisis mode despite playing just a single league match.

Haifa suffered a shock 3-0 home defeat to newly promoted Bnei Yehuda in its season opener on Saturday, but the repercussions look set to be far reaching. Striker Eliran Atar is on his way out of the club after clashing with coach Roni Levy one time too many on Saturday.

Atar, the league’s top scorer in 2012/13 who joined Haifa in January from French club Stade de Reims, was substituted at halftime on Saturday before exchanging words with Levy, not for the first time since the coach returned to the club earlier this summer. Atar wasn’t allowed to train on Sunday and is effectively suspended until Haifa makes an official announcement.

In other news, the entire Maccabi Petah Tikva youth squad was hospitalized in Sofia, Bulgaria over the weekend after suffering from vomiting and severe diarrhea during their training camp in the country.

The players came down with the unpleasant symptoms following Friday night’s meal at the Bulgarian Football Association’s training complex at which they are staying.

Former Israel Football Association chairman and Petah Tikva chairman, Avi Luzon, said he suspects that the players may have been poisoned on purpose after singing in Hebrew during the meal.

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