Hapoel Beersheba striker Shlomi Arbeitman scored the only goal of last night’s 1-0 win over Hapoel Haifa at Turner Stadium..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Less than two weeks ago, Shlomi Arbeitman’s entire focus was channeled towards helping Hapoel Beersheba end its 40-year drought without a Premier League championship.
However, following his move to Hapoel Haifa in the final day of the winter transfer window, Arbeitman will do everything in his power to derail Beersheba’s run to the title on Saturday when he faces his former team at Haifa Stadium.
Beersheba is unbeaten in its past 17 league games, a run stretching back to late September, winning 15 of those matches to open a five-point gap over three-time defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Beersheba, which hasn’t lost in 22 matches over all competitions after beating Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle in the first leg of their State Cup quarterfinal on Tuesday, can move eight points clear for at least 24 hours, with Maccabi not visiting Maccabi Netanya until Sunday night.
Beersheba claimed a dramatic 1-0 win over Hapoel Haifa in their first meeting this season, courtesy of a splendid bicycle-kick goal by no other than Arbeitman.
That memorable strike secured the team its fifth league win in a row, its longest streak since 1996. Beersheba drew its subsequent match against Bnei Yehuda, but has another chance to break the club record for consecutive wins when it goes for six straight on Saturday.
“We have twice previously this season won five straight matches and didn’t manage to claim a sixth so this time we want to do it,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We have 14 matches left until the end of the season and every game will be a real battle.
There is no room for mistakes.”
Arbeitman left Beersheba after it signed striker Mohammad Ghadir on a three-and-a-half year deal. His move to Haifa almost fell through after the transfer forms were filed with the Israel Football Association six minutes after the end of the deadline.
However, the IFA High Court approved his move and he made his debut for Haifa last week.
“The meeting with Beersheba came really fast, but this is an important game for us and every match is a cup final,” said Arbeitman. “I have nothing to prove. I’m doing everything I can to succeed with this wonderful team. I don’t want to talk about Hapoel Beersheba. I made the right decision and now I need to get the job done.
“Beersheba is the best team in the country, but it is important for me to play and not sit on the bench or in the stands.”
Also Saturday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Ra’anana, Hapoel Acre visits Maccabi Petah Tikva, Bnei Yehuda welcomes Bnei Sakhnin and Ironi Kiryat Shmona faces Hapoel Kfar Saba.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem meets Maccabi Haifa.