Hapoel Beersheba’s lingering title hopes are as good as over after it was held to a 1-1 draw by Hapoel Tel Aviv in Premier League action at Vasermil Stadium on Saturday night.
Beersheba already conceded defeat in the title race following last week’s 2-0 loss to league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv and the southerners will find themselves 10 points behind the yellow-and-blue with seven matches to play should the defending champion beat Ironi Kiryat Shmona on the road on Monday.
Beersheba deserved no more than a point on Saturday, with Hapoel creating the better chances throughout the match. Omer Damari took his leaguebest tally to 22 goals with a clinical finish in the fifth minute, but the hosts drew level through Tomer Swisa following a swift team move. Damari had an ideal opportunity to put the visitors back in front in the 29th minute, but he failed to convert a penalty for a second straight match after previously netting every spot kick he took in his career.
“We finish this match with a very good feeling,” said Hapoel coach Ran Ben-Shimon.
“We really wanted to win, but despite failing to do so I’m very pleased with our performance.”
Tel Aviv climbed up to fourth place, ahead of Maccabi Haifa on goal difference, after the Greens suffered a humbling 2-1 defeat to Bnei Sakhnin at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Fourth place will be sufficient for Europa League qualification assuming either Beersheba or third-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona win the State Cup as well as finish in the top three.
Beersheba faces Kiryat Shmona in the cup semifinals next Wednesday.
Haifa dropped to its third straight loss despite moving into the lead through Alon Turgeman’s header in the 10th minute.
However, former Haifa defender Ali Osman leveled the score with an accurate free-kick from the edge of the box in the 73rd minute and the Haifa crowd booed its team off the pitch after Marc Fernandez netted Sakhnin’s winner five minutes from time.
Sakhnin moved to within just a single point of Tel Aviv and Haifa in the fight for fourth place. Sakhnin visits Hapoel Tel Aviv next week, while Haifa faces Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield.
Two crucial head-to-head showdowns in the battle against relegation ended in 0-0 deadlocks on Saturday, with Hapoel Ramat Hasharon (24 points) drawing with Hapoel Ra’anana (28) while Maccabi Petah Tikva (24) and Hapoel Acre (29) also shared the spoils.
Bnei Yehuda (23) fell to last place following Saturday’s results, but can climb out of the relegation zone with a draw against Beitar Jerusalem at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday.
Maccabi Netanya secured its promotion to the Premier League on Friday, beating Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle 3-1 to move 17-points clear at the top of the National League standings.
The top two teams in the National League will book a place in the top flight at the end of the season, with Hapoel Petah Tikva currently holding a fourpoint gap over Bnei Lod in the battle for the runners-up position with six matches to play.