Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Hanan Maman.
(photo credit: DANNY MAARON)
Hapoel Beersheba overcame another major hurdle on its way to a third straight Premier League championship on Sunday night, thrashing Maccabi Netanya 5-1 for its biggest win of the season to increase its lead at the top to seven points.
Beitar Jerusalem can close back to within four points with a victory at Hapoel Haifa on Monday, but regardless, Beersheba will remain in complete control of its destiny as it aims to become just the third team in the past 55 years to win three league titles in a row.
Until Sunday, only one of Beersheba’s 20 wins this season came by more than two goals, but Barak Bachar’s side scored four times in just 24 second- half minutes against Netanya, extending its unbeaten streak to 10 matches.
A Ben Sahar penalty in the 21st minute got Beersheba rolling, but it wasn’t until the second half that the visitors clinched the points.
Hanan Maman netted his sixth goal for the team since joining in the January transfer window seven minutes into the second half, but Didier Kougbenya gave Netanya a lifeline seven minutes later.
Beersheba would reestablish a two-goal cushion just three minutes later though, thanks to an Anthony Nawkaeme penalty and the Nigerian forward needed only four more minutes to effectively secure the victory. Sahar put the icing on the cake with his second goal in the 75th minute.
Strange scheduling meant Beersheba was playing just its sixth road game from the past 17 league contests on Sunday.
However, it triumphed for the fifth time in that stretch away from Turner Stadium, a run that started in mid-December following a 1-0 loss at Netanya.
“I think our preparation for this match is what made the difference,” said coach Bachar.
“We were facing a really strong team, but we knew what we needed to do against them and it worked most of the time.
“We have another difficult game against Bnei Yehuda next week and we need to make sure that we are just as ready as we were tonight because nothing is over yet.”
Netanya had won five of its previous seven matches to close to within three points of the top four. But Sunday’s defeat leaves it five points behind Hapoel Haifa in fourth place, which will be good enough to qualify for the Europa League.