Hapoel Beersheba’s title hopes suffered a significant blow on Saturday night following a shock 1-0 defeat to Hapoel Ra’anana in Netanya.

Beersheba looked to close to within a single point of league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv, which doesn’t visit Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby until Monday night. However, it could find itself seven points behind Maccabi on Monday ahead of the championship playoffs and the final 10 matches of the season after dropping to just its second loss in the past 20 games on Saturday.

Beersheba’s only previous defeat in the past five months came against Maccabi Tel Aviv and it entered Saturday’s match as a firm favorite to record its ninth victory from the past 10 encounters.

However, it struggled throughout Saturday’s contest and Sahar Benbinishti scored a deserved winner for Ra’anana in the 60th minute, giving the team only its second win from the past 16 matches.

“Ra’anana was simply better than us tonight,” admitted Beersheba coach Elisha Levy, who lost striker Glynor Plet to a red card in stoppage time. “We were poor and barely reached any scoring opportunities.

We have no excuses. We hope to bounce back in the playoffs. It won’t be easy, but we will give our all until the end.”

Ra’anana’s victory took it six points clear of the relegation zone, although the cushion could be slashed in half should Hapoel Ramat Hasharon beat Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.

“We deserved this win,” said Ra’anana coach Menahem Koretzki.

“We have had a reasonable season until now and I hope it will end even better.”

The league will be split in two after every team completes a 26-game schedule on Monday. The top six will face each other twice more, while the bottom eight clubs will play one another one more time. The bottom two sides will be relegated to the National League.

Maccabi Petah Tikva opened a three-point cushion from the relegation zone on Saturday thanks to a 1-0 victory at Hapoel Haifa. Lidor Cohen scored the only goal of the match in the 33rd minute.

Bnei Yehuda climbed off the foot of the standings, at least for 24 hours, drawing 0-0 with Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

Despite losing only once over its past nine matches, Bnei Yehuda remains in the bottom two, having won just twice over that stretch.

Hapoel Acre edged closer to securing another season of top-flight soccer on Saturday, drawing 1-1 with Ashdod SC. Amiran Shkalim (51) handed Ashdod the lead before Ismaeel Ryan (61) gave the hosts a share of the spoils.

Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin beat Beitar Jerusalem 1-0 at Teddy Stadium through Abraham Paz’s header in the 83rd minute, 10 minutes after Beitar defender Andres Tunez was sent off.

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