Mac TA cuts gap ahead of Beersheba showdown

Yellow-and-blue closes within one point of summit after beating Sakhnin while leaders held to deadlock.

March 13, 2016 05:13
2 minute read.
Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Eran Zahavi (center) scored the only goal in last night’s 1-0 win over Bnei

Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Eran Zahavi (center) scored the only goal in last night’s 1-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin at Bloomfield Stadium, bringing the yellow-and-blue within a single point of leader Hapoel Beersheba.. (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)

Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv will be separated by just a single point when they meet at Turner Stadium next Sunday after the yellow-and-blue reduced the gap from the summit for a second straight week on Saturday.

Eran Zahavi’s winner 10 minutes from time gave Maccabi a 1-0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin at Bloomfield Stadium, while Beersheba was held to a draw for a second straight match, only managing a 0-0 deadlock against Hapoel Ra’anana at Turner.

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Beersheba extended its unbeaten streak to 22 matches, but Maor Buzaglo’s failed penalty attempt in the 17th minute could end up proving crucial in the title race, with the leader not finding the back of the net in a game for the first time since November.

“The players gave their all and wanted to win. We controlled the match and reached chances but couldn’t convert them,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar, whose team also drew with Sakhnin last week and has failed to win two games in a row for the first time since September.

“Of course we are disappointed at not winning at home for a second straight match, but we are still in the lead ahead of the encounter with Maccabi and we are happy with that. There is a tight and interesting battle for the title that will only be decided at the very end.”

Starting from this weekend, the league is split into two sections. The top six will face each other twice more to determine the champion and final positions, while the bottom eight sides will meet once more to decide the battle against relegation.

The relegation playoffs will begin next weekend.

Maccabi will enter the showdown with Beersheba on the back of five straight wins, keeping a clean sheet in its past three.

Maccabi labored for 80 minutes until Zahavi provided the breakthrough.

After a quick exchange of passes with Orlando Sa, Zahavi only had goalkeeper Mahmud Kandil to beat and he made no mistake from close range. The Maccabi captain took his tally for the season to 28 goals, two shy of Nissim Elmalich’s record for goals in a season from the 1954/55 campaign.

“This is money time,” said Zahavi, who is all but certain to be the league’s top scorer for a third straight season, scoring 29 goals two years ago and 27 last season.

“We were under pressure towards the end and it was a very important goal. Being in first place will only mean something if we are there at the end of the season. We are not thinking of Beersheba and are only focused on winning our matches.”

Sakhnin was hoping to do Beersheba a favor after coming to Maccabi’s aid last week, but Zahavi’s goal meant it dropped to its first defeat in eight matches.

“This is disappointing because the guys really gave their all,” said Sakhnin coach Yossi Abuksis. “We lost sight of Zahavi once and it cost us.”

On Monday, third place Beitar Jerusalem welcomes Maccabi Haifa.

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