Hapoel Beersheba forward Anthony Nawkaeme vs Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba climbed to the summit of the Premier League standings for the first time this season on Sunday night, beating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 3-1 at Turner Stadium for its fifth win in the past six games.
Since losing to Maccabi Haifa in the second week of the season, Beersheba has picked up 28 of a possible 30 points, winning eight and drawing two of 10 matches.
Beitar Jerusalem’s stoppage-time equalizer at Teddy Stadium last week snapped Beersheba’s winning streak, but the two-time reigning champion got right back on track on Sunday.
Beersheba’s stay in first place this time could prove to be short-lived, with Hapoel Haifa having the opportunity to return to the top with a victory over Maccabi Haifa in the derby on Monday.
Michael Ohana gave Beersheba the lead in the 11th minute, but an own-goal by Oren Bitton leveled the score three minutes later. The hosts wouldn’t be denied though, with Miguel Vitor heading Beersheba back into the lead in the 25th minute and Tomas Pekhart securing the three points 11 minutes from time.
“We knew this would be a tough match,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar after his team extended its record unbeaten home streak to 40 matches. “The fact we are in first place isn’t relevant at the moment.
What is important is that we are improving our level of play.”
Also Sunday, Hapoel Ra’anana and Maccabi Petah Tikva drew 0-0.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Haifa is used to entering derbies as the underdog, but its excellent start to the campaign combined with Maccabi’s struggles mean the sides are separated by nine points entering Monday’s showdown.
Hapoel hasn’t won a match since late October, suffering its one and only defeat of the campaign to Maccabi Netanya in the beginning of November before drawing 2-2 with Maccabi Tel Aviv last week following a three-week break.
Hapoel hasn’t won a home derby in nearly 22 years, a drought stretching back to the 2-1 victory in December 16, 1995, when Reuven Atar and Amir Turgeman found the back of the net.
Maccabi has won just four of 11 matches so far this season and is still searching for its first road victory of 2017/18. The Greens have only picked up three of a possible 18 points away from home, scoring three goals in total.
“We are entering this derby in a different position than usual,” said Hapoel striker Eden Ben-Basat. “These are good times at Hapoel Haifa and we don’t want this dream to end.”