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Photo by: Adi Avishai
Pressure mounting for Hap Beersheba as Petah Tikva looms
By ALLON SINAI
08/05/2012
Siraj Naser’S sixth league goal of the season wasn’t enough for Hapoel Beersheba to avoid defeat to Hapoel Acre.
 
Two weeks ago it seemed that only a dramatic collapse could deny Hapoel Beersheba another season of Premier League soccer.

However, one defeat combined with two straight Maccabi Petah Tikva wins have increased the pressure dramatically on Beersheba ahead of Tuesday’s match at Ironi Ramat Hasharon.

Beersheba holds just a three-point cushion over Petah Tikva in the battle against relegation.

A Petah Tikva victory at Hapoel Acre on Tuesday combined with a Beersheba loss will send the southerners into the bottom three ahead of the final weekend of the season.

Petah Tikva looked all but doomed two weeks ago when the Israel Football Association’s High Court reversed its previous decision and deducted the club three points for its involvement in March’s brawl at the Moshava Stadium.

However, it moved to within three points of safety on Saturday following its 2-1 win over Hapoel Rishon Lezion and Beersheba’s 3-1 defeat to Acre.

“We are fighting for our lives and can’t afford to play the way we did on Saturday,” Beersheba owner Alona Barkat told her players on Monday.

“Everyone knows how important this club is to me and I expect you to give your all against Ramat Hasharon.”

Hapoel Haifa has also still got work to do to maintain its top-flight status, holding just a four-point cushion on the relegation zone after only managing a 1-1 draw against Ramat Hasharon on Saturday.

Haifa can secure its survival on Tuesday with a victory at Betar Jerusalem, which has won eight straight matches.

Also in the relegation playoffs, Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Rishon Lezion in an encounter between two teams already preparing for life in the National League.

Hapoel Tel Aviv can book a Europa League berth with a win over Maccabi Netanya at Bloomfield Stadium on Tuesday.

Hapoel, which can also qualify for continental competition by winning the State Cup for the third consecutive year next week, will guarantee itself a top-three finish with three points against Netanya, which needs a win on Tuesday to maintain a realistic hope of playing in Europe next season.

Also Tuesday, Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Ashdod SC.

On Wednesday, third-placed Bnei Yehuda hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv, while Maccabi Haifa visits champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

Kiryat Shmona officially signed Gili Landau as its next coach on Monday.

Landau, who celebrated his 54th birthday on Monday, began coaching in 1991 at Hapoel Bat-Yam after an illustrious playing career, but apart from a few matches in charge of Hapoel Tel Aviv at the start of the 2004/05 season, has never guided a top team.

Despite spending the entire season at the foot of the table as Hapoel Petah Tikva coach after beginning the campaign with a nine-point deduction, Landau has received plenty of praise for his work, convincing Kiryat Shmona owner Izzy Sheratzky to bring him in as Ran Ben-Shimon’s replacement.
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