Hapoel Beerseba’s John Ogu and Beitar Jerusalem’s Claudemir.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
A John Ogu header deep into stoppage time secured Hapoel Beersheba a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Turner Stadium on Sunday night, ensuring the southerners will enter next week’s showdown against Maccabi Tel Aviv brimming with confidence.
Maccabi can move back ahead of Beersheba with a win at Bnei Sakhnin on Monday, but Barak Bachar’s team is guaranteed to at least be tied on points with the yellow-and-blue ahead of the clash between the league’s two best sides.
Beersheba took the lead after less than three minutes through Romanian Ovidiu Hoban, but after failing to score in its previous five matches, Kiryat Shmona finally found the back of the net and leveled the score in the 20th minute via Ofir Mizrahi, with Beersheba goalkeeper Dudu Goresh slow to react to the shot from 20 meters out.
The match was heading for a draw until Ogu rose highest to head in the winner in the 94th minute to give the hosts their eighth triumph in the past nine matches.
“We deserved what happened in the end,” said Bachar. “We reached a lot of chances in the second half. It was tough, but it was sweet.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv will need to beat Bnei Sakhnin by a single goal on Monday in its first match since the completion of its Champions League group stage campaign to return to first place on goal difference.
“We tried to give our best performance.
This is what we could do at the moment and this was the best at this time. I’m sure in the future we will be more competitive in this tournament,” said Maccabi coach Slavisa Jokanovic about his team’s continental campaign.
“I need five foreign players that can make a difference on the pitch. That would be helpful to compete. The Israeli players are able to play in this tournament.
We are fighting to play at this level and we have to improve ourselves.
I expect we will do better going forward.
What is our ambition? Do we want to improve or are we happy with the past two months. I’m sure that we want to improve.”