Beitar Jerusalem’s Brazilian midfielder Claudemir (left) and Bnei Yehuda’s Matan Hozez challenge for the ball during last night’s 1-1 draw at Teddy Stadium..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem could find itself six points back of Hapoel Beersheba in the Premier League title race on Monday night after being held to a 1-1 draw by Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium on Sunday, with Erik Sabo squandering a chance to move his team within a single point of the summit after failing to convert a stoppage-time penalty.
Beitar took the lead through Idan Vered in the 10th minute, but Bnei Yehuda got the second half off to the better start and equalized through Roei Gordana’s spot kick in the 52nd minute, with referee Eli Hakhmon harshly ruling that Nerijus Valskis was clipped by Sabo.
Hakhmon made an even bigger mistake when he failed to spot substitute Itay Shechter’s dive in the box and awarded Beitar a late penalty. But Sabo sent his shot against the left upright and Jerusalem dropped two precious points after also losing 3-1 at Hapoel Beersheba last week.
Beersheba is targeting its fifth straight win and seventh victory from the past eight games at Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday.
However, only one of those wins has come on the road, with the reigning champion playing six of its last seven matches at home.
Beersheba’s last defeat came versus Maccabi Tel Aviv, losing 1-0 in Netanya at the start of February. Maccabi has beaten Beersheba in their last two meetings, also overcoming Barak Bachar’s side in the Toto Cup final earlier this season.
“As the cliché goes, we are taking one match at a time and this is going to be another very tough game,” said Bachar on Sunday.
“Our players are smart enough to understand that they are facing a very difficult match. If we come in with the same attitude we showed against them in the Toto Cup final and in our last meeting in the league we will lose the match. The players are clever and realize that and we will make sure we come with the right attitude.”
Tel Aviv hoped to enter the showdown in a far better position, but two consecutive defeats, including last week’s humbling 4-1 loss at Maccabi Netanya, have left it eight points behind first place and with no room for error.
“We need to win because it is the next game and we didn’t win our last two games. We need to win no matter the consequences and try to recover confidence,” said coach Jordi Cruyff. “The momentum of losing so many points to start the playoffs is the worst we could imagine.
After a good second round, instead of continuing the momentum we have made it more difficult for ourselves and that is why this game is looking more critical now then it should have been.”
Also Sunday, Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Netanya drew 1-1. Haifa led through Nisso Kapiloto’s 40th-minute goal, with Didier Kougbenya equalizing two minutes into the second half after coming on as a substitute at the break.
“We maintained a seven-point gap from Netanya and that is important,” said Haifa coach Nir Klinger, whose team ended the match with 10 men following Samuel Scheimann’s sending off in the 90th minute.