Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Eran Zahavi (left) and Hapoel Beersheba defender Ofir Davidzada are set to clash once more tonight when the Premier League’s top two teams meet at Turner Stadium..
(photo credit: MENI BEN-ARI)
After seeing its gap slashed to a single point over recent weeks, Hapoel Beersheba looks to swing momentum in the Premier League title race back in its favor when it hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Turner Stadium on Sunday night.
A club record eight-match winning streak saw Beersheba open a five-point margin over three-time defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv, but two consecutive draws at home reduced the lead to just one point ahead of the third of four showdowns between the sides this season.
Beersheba hasn’t lost in 22 matches, a streak stretching back to last September, but it failed to find the back of the net in a game for the first time since November in last week’s 0-0 draw against Hapoel Ra’anana, further complicating its dream of ending its 40-year championship drought.
“We have been waiting to play in a match like this for a long time,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “This is a great experience and I don’t think there are any favorites.”
Maccabi is aiming to become just the second team in local soccer history to win four straight championships, the first since Hapoel Petah Tikva took five consecutive league titles between 1959 and 1963.
Tel Aviv enters the encounter on the back of five straight wins, keeping a clean sheet in its past three.
On Saturday, Bnei Yehuda all but secured its top-flight status, while Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Tel Aviv both took significant steps towards ensuring their survival.
Bnei Yehuda moved 11 points clear of the relegation zone with six matches to play after beating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1-0 through Pedro Galvan’s 27th-minute winner. Kiryat Shmona, which lost Austin Amutu to a red card in the 65th minute, is only three points above Hapoel Haifa and the danger zone after dropping to its fifth defeat in six games, failing to find the back of the net throughout that stretch. Petah Tikva opened an eightpoint cushion on Haifa with a 2-1 win over the latter. Roei Gordana (67) and Hagay Goldenberg (74) scored for Petah Tikva before Allyson netted an own-goal (84) which Haifa failed to build on.
Hapoel Tel Aviv registered just its second win in nine games on Saturday, establishing a five-point gap on the bottom two by defeating Hapoel Kfar Saba 3-0 on the road. Tel Aviv effectively clinched the win by the break, with Nemanja Nikolic (13, 40) and Samuel Scheimann (31) finding the back of the net.
In the championship playoffs, Beitar Jerusalem’s six-match winning streak was snapped with a 2-0 defeat at arch-rival Bnei Sakhnin. Weeam Amasha scored the opener in the 61st minute, one minute after Beitar had a goal questionably disallowed for offside. Former Beitar striker Shlomi Azulay clinched the three points 10 minutes from time.
Sakhnin moved up to fourth with the win, but is still 15 points behind third place Beitar.
Elsewhere Sunday, Hapoel Ra’anana hosts Maccabi Haifa.