Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Sagiv Yehezkel (left) celebrates with Moshe Ohayon..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Beersheba’s Premier League title challenge was derailed on the road once more on Saturday night following a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Beersheba entered the match on the back of a 2-1 win over second-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona and could have closed to within three points of the summit, with league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv not facing Beitar Jerusalem until Monday night and Kiryat Shmona only in action against Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.
However, Beersheba yet again failed to claim all three points on the road, only avoiding defeat thanks to Dovev Gabay’s 80th-minute equalizer, which canceled out Maharan Lala’s ninth-minute opener.
“We were the better team in the second half, but we still didn’t play well enough,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy, whose team has won just three of 13 league games away from Vasermil Stadium this season.
“In order to succeed on the road we have to improve our attitude. We can’t keep starting matches by conceding the first goal. We are then forced to chase our opponent and we need to improve on that.
Nevertheless, we need to continue and believe we can fight for the championship until the end.”
Hapoel Haifa remained three points clear of the relegation zone and Hapoel Petah Tikva, which drew 0-0 with Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Hapoel Tel Aviv took a significant step on the way to avoiding demotion on Saturday, beating Ashdod SC 3-1 at Bloomfield Stadium despite having to end the match with 10 men and defender Sari Falah in goal.
Hapoel opened a six-point gap on the relegation zone after coming back from a goal down to claim just its second win in 11 matches.
Tom Mond gave Ashdod the lead in the 22nd minute, but a Paty Yeye own-goal leveled the score in first half stoppage time.
Hapoel looked to be in serious trouble after goalkeeper Apoula Edel had to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher in the 78th minute, with coach Eli Cohen already making all three of his substitutions.
The hosts were left with 10 men and Falah took Edel’s place between the posts, but it was Hapoel which moved ahead in the 88th minute through Sagiv Yehezkel before Dudu Biton wrapped up all three points in stoppage time.
“I had never found myself in such a situation in the past and I was just hoping not to lose,” said Hapoel coach Cohen.
“We still have many problems, but we will overcome them. We will not allow this club to be relegated.”
Hapoel also received some bad news on Saturday, with Edel’s injury likely of a serious nature, ruling him out of action until the end of the season.
Bnei Sakhnin is also on course to secure its survival after beating Hapoel Ra’anana 2-0 thanks to goals from Mohammad Ghadir (17) and Firas Mugrabi (43). The defeat may prove costly for Ra’anana, which could lose sixth place to Maccabi Haifa, should the Greens beat Kiryat Shmona on Sunday.
The top six will advance to the championship playoffs after the regular season comes to an end following next weekend’s action.
Maccabi Netanya lost all hope of finishing among the top six after drawing 1-1 with rock-bottom Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
Edi Gotlib (24) gave Acre the lead before Eran Levy (28) equalized from the penalty spot.