Hapoel Beersheba players in a celebratory mood after drawing 2-2 with Hapoel Haifa, April 2018.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba’s remarkable unbeaten run at Turner Stadium was kept alive in extraordinary fashion on Sunday night, with the reigning champion completing a comeback from two goals down with a 94th-minute equalizer to draw 2-2 against Hapoel Haifa.
The two-time defending champion seemed destined to suffer its first league loss at Turner since the opening of the stadium in 2015/16 when Haifa took a deserved 2-0 lead through Alon Turgeman (29) and Eden Ben-Basat’s 50th-minute penalty.
But a John Ogu header in the 79th minute gave the hosts a lifeline and Beersheba picked up a precious point in the title race, taking its record unbeaten home streak to 51 matches, thanks to a Ben-Basat own goal with the last play of stoppage time.
Beersheba extended its lead at the top to seven points, but Beitar Jerusalem can cut the margin to four points with a win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium on Monday.
“What happened at the end was crazy,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “I’ve got to give the fans credit as they lifted us and made us believe that we could come back against all the odds. We didn’t win but this draw is a bit like a win because of the way we fought back.
To come back after trailing 2-0 is a big psychological boost and this is a very sweet draw.”
Beersheba will play its next three matches away from home, visiting Maccabi Netanya, Bnei Yehuda and Beitar.
Beitar had its six-match winning streak at Teddy snapped with last week’s frustrating 1-1 draw against Bnei Yehuda, with Erik Sabo failing to convert a penalty in stoppage time.
Jerusalem has lost just one home match all season, falling 2-1 to Maccabi Tel Aviv when the teams last met four months ago.
Maccabi is in fourth place, dropping 11 points behind Beersheba following last week’s 1-0 defeat to the reigning champion. The yellow-and-blue lost its third straight game, a streak the length of which it hadn’t experienced since 2011.
With Netanya beating Bnei Yehuda 3-1 on Saturday to close to within three points of Maccabi, yellow-andblue coach Jordi Cruyff admitted that his team’s main goal at the moment is to secure a top-four finish and qualification for the Europa League.
“It’s a very important game for us for many reasons. First for the points because we need the points and second for the pride,” said Cruyff. “Beitar is a team that will push as it is still fighting for the title. They will go 200 percent and we already know from previous years that if you don’t match their intensity you will lose points.
“For us it is a test of our character and our strength. When you fall down you have to stand up. We have to look what’s behind now also and not just what is in front. We know what we need to do to guarantee European football and that is now the key point.”