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Hapoel Beersheba forward Anthony Nawkaeme scored his team’s only goal in last night’s 3-1 defeat at Viktoria Plzen in Europa League action..(Photo by: UDI ZITIAT)
Beersheba suffers Europa setback in Plzen
By ALLON SINAI
09/29/2017
Israeli champion struggles away from home once more, Ben-Zaken appointed as new Beitar coach
Hapoel Beersheba’s road woes continued on Thursday night with a 3-1 defeat toViktoria Plzen in Europa League Group G action in the Czech Republic.

After its preparations were overshadowed by the news of defender Shir Tzedek’s failed drug test, Beersheba was aiming to register a second straight win to start group play.

Beersheba defeated Lugano of Switzerland 2-1 in its opener, but fell to its third straight road loss in continental competition on Thursday. The two-time defending Premier League champion suffered defeats to Ludogorets in Bulgaria and Maribor in Slovenia in Champions League qualifying and has won just one of its last seven away games in Europe stretching back to last season.

Plzen took the lead through Milan Petrzela in the 29th minute, but Beersheba was a different team after the break and deservedly equalized in the 69th minute. After struggling for form over recent matches, forward Anthony Nawkaeme began the match on the bench, but he needed just seven minutes after coming on as a substitute to find the back of the net with an excellent turn and finish.

Beersheba had chances to complete the comeback, only to be exposed on defense once more in the 76th minute.

Beersheba was playing for the first time since announcing that Tzedek had tested positive for a banned substance following the match against Maribor earlier this season.

Tzedek and Beersheba are waiting for the results of the B sample, but they believe that a food supplement, perhaps given to the defender during his time with the national team, was likely responsible for the banned substance entering his body.

Tzedek could face a suspension of up to four years, although similar cases from the past suggest he will not be banned for more than two years.

Tzedek is available to play until his B sample is tested, but Beersheba has no intention of using him, leaving coach Barak Bachar without his two first-choice central defenders, with Miguel Vitor still out injured.

They were surly missed in Plzen, with Jan Kopic making no mistake with only goalkeeper Dudu Goresh to beat to regain Plzen’s lead before Marek Bakos secured the three points with a free header one minute from time.

Plzen moved tied with Beersheba on three points, with Steaua Bucharest leading the group with six points after defeating Lugano 2-1 on Thursday.

“We conceded two goals too easily, especially the second goal which came when we had momentum on our side and were threatening to take the lead,” said Bachar.

Later Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv looked to pick up its first points of the group stage when it hosted La Liga side Villarreal. Maccabi dropped to a 1-0 loss at Slavia Prague in its Group A opener two weeks ago.

In other local soccer news, Beitar Jerusalem announced the surprise signing of Benny Ben-Zaken as its new head coach on Thursday. Coach Sharon Mimer was sacked four days before the start of the Premier League campaign after falling out with owner Eli Tabib, and his assistant Gili Lavenda had guided the team since. Beitar leads the standings after five matches, winning its first three games before drawing twice. The 34-year-old Ben-Zaken has little experience, guiding Ironi Kiryat Shmona for three matches last season before clashing with owner Izzy Sheratzky. He went on to coach Hapoel Katamon in the National League before also beginning this season in the second division as the boss of Hapoel Afula. Lavenda will remain at the club as an assistant.
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